Government backtracks: Primary boarding schools here to stay

Education CS Ezekiel Machogu. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The Ministry of Education has reversed its plans to eliminate boarding schools at the primary level of education.

Speaking at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, Education CS Ezekiel Machogu urged boarding school heads to continue improving infrastructure to admit more students to day wings.

"About 70 per cent of secondary students are day scholars, which is a clear indication that more support should be directed toward developing these schools.

"As a result, I encourage all boarding schools to establish day wings in order to improve access and reduce the cost of education," Machogu said.

He went on: "I am not saying we will abolish boarding schools; we will simply have to improve the infrastructure in the schools to accommodate more students."

When the government announced that boarding schools would not survive the shocker in the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) system, it threw parents in a loop.

The government hinted at phasing out our boarding schools in an effort to reduce the cost of education in the country.

The state also suggested that public secondary schools be classified as national, extra-county, or county institutions.

Dr Belio Kipsang, the PS for Basic Education, said in Mombasa last year that this move will allow parents to spend more time with their children.

"I urge parents to remember it is our responsibility as primary educators to walk alongside our children. Day schooling will be the direction we take as we move forward because it is the only way we will be able to engage with our children," says Kipsang.

Kipsang went on to say that the concept of day schooling is one of the key terms of reference for the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms and that it contributes to 70 per cent of learning institutions in the country being day schools.

"This country is one of the few where 28 per cent of our children attend boarding schools. Globally, there are only a few countries that exceed 15 per cent. Ours is the highest anywhere, so we need to start accepting that we need to be with our children, and the only way we will be with them is if they attend day schools," he explained.

"The direction that the government will be taking with Grades 1 to 9 will be day school and I am aware this will be critical for the working group," Kipsang said. The PS said the government's decision of domiciling the Junior Secondary in primary will gradually phase out the boarding schools which will drastically reduce the cost of education.

"Let's give more time for our children to be with their parents but again, 96 per cent of our primary schools are day schools and they will host JSS. We are not abolishing anything, because they are already day schools," Kipsang added.

In 2021, former Education CS Prof George Magoha rejected the move by stakeholders who had proposed abolishing boarding schools to curb unrest in schools.

Magoha announced boarding schools can only be done gradually but said it was not possible for the immediate closure of the 4,000 boarding institutions. 

"There is no plan to abolish them, but there is thinking in that direction. There has to be a gradual process. Maybe new start-ups (schools) will be day schools," Magoha said.

"There is no plan to abolish them, but there is thinking in that direction. There has to be a gradual process. Maybe new start-ups (schools) will be day schools,” said Magoha.

The CS said every situation regarding boarding institutions would be looked at on its own merit. Several Education stakeholders believe the abolition of boarding institutions will end school unrest.

“It has never been a policy to abolish boarding schools. It is not an issue to bother with at the moment,” Magoha said.

Emuhaya MP Amboko Milemba said it will be an equaliser in the education sector and make it easier and fairer to distribute CDF funds to all.

"When we give out CDF, those in boarding schools tend to get more money than those in day schools," Milemba said.