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Will Grade 7 learners handle secondary school as we know it?

By Nancy Nzau | Jan 20th 2022 | 3 min read

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha looks at a pupil's book in one of the classrooms when he toured Kakamega Primary School last year. [Mumo Munuve, Standard]

Despite the efforts by the Ministry of Education to ensure a smooth institutional transition for Grade Six pupils to junior secondary, fears and questions arise on the psychological and social implications of domiciling prepubescents amongst adolescents and young adults. 

The ministry has committed money to construct 6,500 classrooms in 6,371 secondary schools to guarantee enough space for the incoming Grade Six when they transition to junior secondary in April 2023.

And while the educational front looks promising, parents and primary school teachers have expressed concern over whether Grade Seven learners, mainly within the 11-12 age group, can cope with full-blown adolescents and young adults in the 15-19 age gap. 

“Transitioning to junior secondary within a primary school setting is the ideal option,” says Dr Josephine Omondi, a child and adolescent psychiatrist based in Kenyatta Hospital.

“Pre-adolescents are only just starting to understand themselves, but they lack identity formation. Conversely, adolescents are more developed and old enough to understand themselves but may not be equipped to interact appropriately with younger kids,” she says.

“This can cause a lot of passive-aggressive bullying, ridicule, mishandling, and dismissal of the pre-pubescents. In turn, pre-teens can suffer anxiety, depression, school refusal, adjustment disorder, and other negative reactions.”

Omondi says the situation can be remedied if all stakeholders work together to examine the potential outcomes of domiciling Grade Seven learners within a secondary school setting and develop realistic strategies such as sensitization and counseling forums for teachers, staff, parents, and pupils. 

“Other than focusing solely on academics, can the Ministry of Education also guarantee quality care to these young ones? To ensure a successful transition, the ministry of education should work hand in hand with child psychologists to create programs that acknowledge these psychological and social differences and work towards overcoming them in a healthy and sensitive manner,” says Dr Omondi.

Dr Eric Kioko, an anthropologist at Kenyatta University, says prepubescents could learn positive and negative traits from their older peers.

“At the ages of 11-12, kids have highly impressionable minds. They can absorb a lot of information at a quicker rate. A multi-age social environment can expose kids to healthy competitiveness, creativity, and social skills,” he says.

“However, the same high moldability trait of an 11-12 year old requires close parental influence, monitoring, and guidance. The pupils may easily pick up negative social habits from older peers that will stick with them for a long time.”

According to Kioko, parents are better equipped to monitor their children’s environment than teachers and older kids.

“Teachers are overwhelmed by high numbers of pupils and may not fully be hands-on with the children’s social and psychological development,” he says.  

According to Omondi, Grade Six pupils joining secondary school before their seniors in classes 7 and 8 under the 8-4-4 system is not a major source of psychological concern. 


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