The government’s directive to domicile junior secondary schools in primary schools has come with a mixed bag of fortunes for the institutions.
According to the directive, learners moving to grades 7,8 and 9 will remain in primary schools as opposed to an earlier move to have them join secondary schools, pushing investors in the education sector back to the drawing board.
School heads who had invested millions to set up junior secondary schools hoping to reap from the transition are now scratching their heads on what to do with the massive investments.
Some have, however, termed the decision a blessing in disguise noting that the facilities will be necessary for the near future.
In Migori county, for instance, a number of junior secondary classrooms built in secondary schools will now be used to accommodate the increasing Form One learners.
At Isebania boys, the government built two classrooms which are yet to be completed. “We were stretched in terms of resources. We will use the two classrooms for our learners once they have been completed,” Thomas Orungu, the school principal, said.
At Osiri Mixed Secondary school in Nyatike Sub-county, Irene Dianga, the principal, said they expected to get 100 junior secondary school learners at the school. Now, however, the new classroom will find a new use once construction is complete.
In Kisumu, however, a number of principals expressed their disappointment, saying they had already prepared well for the CBC learners even as some said they needed more resources.
At Joel Omino Secondary School Principal Richard Nyagal said the school was expecting 400 students by next year, adding they had also constructed additional toilets.
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At Kisumu Boys High School, the institution’s administration said construction of the CBC classrooms will help them address the shortage.
Principal Duncan Owiye said the transition could have created an accommodation crisis at the institution. The school had constructed three classrooms for CBC.
It also spent Sh500,000 to construct flushable toilets in readiness for the new students.
“Most secondary schools were not prepared to accommodate the huge number of grade six and form one students joining next year. I’m just glad that the government noted this and decided to do something about it,” he said.
In Homa Bay, parents are blaming the government for constructing CBC classrooms in secondary schools only to abandon them.
Julius Omuga, the Coordinator of Homa Bay County Education Network, said construction of the classrooms was a waste of public resources, adding stakeholders’ advice on where the junior secondary schools should have been domiciled was ignored.
Collins Odhiambo, the headteacher at Roots Academy in Nakuru says they had two plans ready to roll out based on recommendations made by the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms.
“We had an excess of classrooms at the primary school which were ready to host Junior Secondary. The school also owns the former Laikipia University Nakuru Campus which was shut,” he said.
Odhiambo explains that after deliberations with the school management and parents, it was agreed that the former university campus infrastructure is renovated to fit the needs of a junior secondary.
“To give the pupils a sense of transition, it was agreed that we move them to the former campus. We converted some buildings to labs, libraries, and dormitories which was less costly,” said Odhiambo.
The new school located five kilometers from its sister primary school is banking on its Grade Six candidates and new students from other local schools for their pioneer Grade Seven class.
“We had 211 candidates sit for the recent Grade 6 exams. We are currently conducting interviews for students intending to transfer to our facility with a projection of at least 300 students,” he said.
Should the school manage to secure the projected enrolment, Mr Odhiambo explained that they will require at least 20 new teachers competent in teaching junior secondary.
Odhiambo says that extra classes at Roots Academy would be repurposed for other amenities for pupils.
Gilgil Hills Academy counts itself lucky for already having had plans for setting up a secondary school in the next few years.
Headteacher Mr Cephas Mwangi says that they had already constructed classrooms and laboratories three years ago some of which they added at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The secondary school is in a separate compound from the primary school. The decision by the government has actually speeded up our dreams of expanding the school,” said Mr Mwangi.
The school had 125 candidates sit for the Kenya Primary School Education Assessment (KPSEA) exams and will form the pioneer class in junior secondary. “We have already embarked on equipping our laboratories ahead of the enrolment set for January. We expect to have everything in place before the learners’ transition,” said Mwangi.
Mr Mwangi said that they intend to use the classes which shall remain vacant to create additional streams and ease pressure on the current classes. Gilgil Hills Academy which has three streams for each grade will have nine extra classes by the end of three years. Dr Richard Tuimur, the principal Kipsangui High School in Uasin Gishu County, says the classrooms that were being constructed to accommodate Grade 7 learners in secondary schools will be put to good use.
“Now that junior secondary school learners will remain in respective primaries, the extra classes that are yet to be completed will be a bonus for us. We have two classes that are yet to be completed in our school and we shall convert them to better use once complete,” he said.
He said the Ministry constructed the classes at Sh 700,000, each but they are yet to be completed.
“We were only asked to provide the site while Education Ministry did the rest of the processes. The extra classes will now enable us to admit extra classes of at least 90 students in form one, in addition to the usual six streams of about 180,” Tuimur said.
Some principals who did not want to be named however said although the classrooms will be put to good use, their planning and implementation was rushed, leading to poor workmanship.
One principal said there was a rushed decision to construct classes in secondary schools, and poor supervision by the ministry, leading to ‘shoddy work’ in some cases.
In Kakamega county, Booker Academy principal John Wandera said the secondary section had already earmarked some existing facilities to serve as junior secondary sections. “We had plans that included investing in converting a section of our classrooms in our secondary section to take in the Grade seven students,” said Wandera.
The private school was expecting to admit at least four streams of grade seven students.
“Nothing has changed in our case, because we have both primary and secondary sections, we encourage parents to keep their children around and welcome new learners interested in joining our school provided they have regular transfer letters,” said Wandera.
Albert Masiolo, the principal of Senende High-school in Vihiga said key stakeholders were not involved in formulating CBC “but it is time to correct the mistakes.”
He said the few classrooms constructed in his school and others did not address the challenge of stretched learning facilities that could not accommodate junior secondary learners on top of other students.
In Nyeri, Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Nyeri branch welcomed junior secondary schools remaining in Primary school.
According to the Branch chairperson Mathenge Wanjau, secondary schools did not have enough classrooms and dormitories to accommodate those joining junior secondary. “The move would have caused overcrowding in the learning institutions whereas leaving empty classes in primary schools,” he said.
In Meru County, Meru School Head of Information Technology Mark Namaswa said they will turn the two Junior Secondary School classrooms into Form Two and Three classrooms.
“Each of our classrooms was constructed at Sh450, 000, they will still be used,” he said.
[Kennedy Gachuhi,Titus Too, Brian Kisanji, Sharon Owino,Anne Atieno, James Omoro, Phares Mutembei, Jane Mugambi]