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Good news for private schools as government offers incentives

Grade 4 learners at Little Star Junior School rehearse before being assessed. [Omondi Onyango,Standard]

Private school owners are now looking forward to cashing in big as the government rolled out incentives to boost their student numbers in new guidelines announced by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha.

Releasing the guidelines on Junior Secondary School (JSS) admissions, Magoha said that all stand-alone private secondary schools that will be offshoots of the existing institutions will be registered and allowed to enrol learners. 
The CS said that the only condition that shall be placed on private schools is the existence of a laboratory.

“The Ministry will undertake registration of all JSS established as stand-alone institutions established from existing private primary schools as long as they have complied with the minimum requirement of classrooms and having a fully equipped laboratory,” said Magoha  

The declaration comes after Magoha shifted from the initial proposal that allowed private schools to use existing private school facilities to admit JSS students.

Two weeks ago, Magoha changed the rules and pleaded with private schools to construct stand-alone secondary schools to admit JSS learners.

Even though Magoha said the government will not fund private schools to construct the new institutions, the CS seems to have handed the institutions an incentive to entice the private investors.

Speaking while releasing the guidelines last week, Magoha said that under new admission rules to JSS, the government will place students in private schools.

“Learners shall be offered placement in all existing registered public and private secondary schools,” Magoha said.

Presently, the government only selects and places students in public secondary schools under the form one admissions criteria.  

But now, under the CBC transition to JSS, Magoha said that the government will facilitate the placement of students in private schools as well.  

“Learners, in consultation with their parents and teachers will be given an opportunity to select a public or private secondary school of their choice for their JSS education. Parents shall meet the cost of learning in private schools,” Magoha said. 

And the statement by Magoha is seen as a major incentive to private schools to boost their capacity after it became apparent that the government may not be in a position to construct all the required classrooms to admit the 2.5 million children, who will transition next year.

Magoha noted that in January 2023, approximately 2,512,467 learners are expected to join Secondary Education in accordance with the Government policy on 100 per cent transition of learners into Basic Education.

“These include 1,268,830 learners enrolled in Grade 6 in 2022 who will transition to JSS (Grade 7) under the CBC; and 1,243,637 Standard 8 cohort of 2022 who will transition to Form 1 under the 8-4-4 system,” Magoha said.

Basic calculations revealed that the government would require some 20, 000 new classrooms to comfortably hold all the learners expected to transition.

Magoha, however, said that so far, about 7,000 new classes had been constructed across the country, leaving a huge deficit that stakeholders now argue, is the basis for incentives to private investors to step in.

The allocation of Sh8 billion towards the construction of classrooms in public primary schools was to bring hope to the Competency-Based Education transition question.

But despite splashing the billions of the allocation, the government has failed to beat the 20,000 classrooms target in readiness for the 2023 transition of 1.2 million learners to junior secondary school.

The pressure for spaces occasioned by pioneer Grade Six learners under CBC and Standard Eight, who will join Junior Secondary and Form One, respectively, is exerting pressure on the government as time ticks toward its implementation

However, with all the pressure, the focus now shifts to private schools seeking to address the classroom deficit in the public secondary schools to allow for a smooth transition of CBC Grade 6 learners to Junior Secondary in January 2023.

On many occasions, Magoha has pleaded with private schools to invest in Junior Secondary to fill the gap of classroom deficit.

“We are encouraging the private schools to construct stand-alone junior high schools. We are currently inspecting the facilities to ensure that they meet the required specifications,” he said.

But nominated MP and former Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) Secretary-General Wilson Sossion said the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) has opened an opportunity for investors eyeing the education sector to reap big through private schools.

Sossion noted public schools struggle with under-resourcing and poor preparation, while private schools are forging ahead with implementation albeit the storm in public education. 

“The way CBC was introduced in this country was to destroy the existence of public schools because they will never implement it. We did not prepare and it was just imposed. Whoever who imposed it was very deliberate to kill public schools,” Sossion said.

Charles Ochome, Kenya Private Schools Association chairman, noted that private schools complement the government’s efforts to meet its obligations.

‘‘Over the past decade, the private sector has supplemented government’s effort in its mandate of delivering quality education. Private schools are only being given an opportunity to implement CBC, not for business,’’ said Ochome.

Ochome said by reaching out to the private sector to build CBC classrooms, the government will see cost reduction, improved quality, greater participation, and sustainable implementation of CBC.

‘‘The government is struggling and you can realise from delays in delivery of capitation to public schools. We try to bridge the gap where the public cannot manage alone,’’ Ochome said.

 Akello Misori, KUPPET’s Secretary-General, asked the government to come up with a proper framework to avoid subjecting education to profit-making ventures and undue competition.

“Education is good for the public. The Minister of Education should provide incentives for developers of private schools to build capacity and ensure standards are maintained across all schools,” said Misori.

 Concern has been raised by school owners over financing the infrastructure and the cost of hiring personnel to handle junior secondary school students.

But CS Magoha insists that the government’s obligation is to public schools only.

“If a Kenyan chooses to take a child to a private school, with all humility, let that Kenyan pay for it. It is a matter of choice,” Magoha said.

Ochome said the Private Schools Association is pursuing avenues to finance the implementation of the infrastructures in their schools.