Inside Machogu's plan to cut school dropout cases

Edward Okumu 23 years old and a form two dropout demonstrates how his homemade toys in the form of tractors and vehicles work. [Caleb Kingwara, Standard]

Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu has revealed a plan to curb school dropout as it emerged that some 500,000 students did not complete secondary school education in the past three years.

The students transitioned under the 100 per cent transition policy, championed by former President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2018.

It aimed at ensuring all students who complete primary school join secondary. 

However, six years later, the policy's effectiveness is being questioned as over 500,000 students admitted under the programme have vanished from the education system.

An analysis by The Standard revealed that the Ministry of Education cannot account for 518,035 students who sat the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exams between 2017 and 2019.

This raises concerns about the policy's ability to retain students throughout their secondary education.

But Machogu downplayed the numbers, claiming that the dropout rate was small.

“I cannot say that there is a big difference. Those who might have dropped out of school at the end of the four-year period might be a small percentage,” Machogu said.

However, critics argue that such a large number of missing students cannot be simply dismissed.

The 100 per cent transition policy was aimed at addressing high school dropout rate, which stood at 6.6 per cent nationally in 2017.

While the policy initially saw an increase in secondary school enrollment, the recent report paints a worrying picture of students seemingly falling through the cracks.

And now, Machogu says that they have put in place measures to curb dropout rates.

One of the measures put in place, the CS says, is provision of funds.

The government provides capitation for Free Primary Education, Free Day Secondary Education and loans and scholarships for learners in TVET and universities.

“Our emphasis and focus is on lifelong skills which will enable people to access employment, be self-employed and skills to work outside the country,” the CS said.

Machogu said that the government is developing a tracking system that will keep tabs on learners from primary to tertiary institutions.

Apart from funding, the CS says that they are planning to track students at every academic level.

“We are going to come up with an integrated kind of system which is able to monitor the attendance and progress of each student at every level from primary, secondary, Tvet institutions and university,” he said.

Data from the Kenya National Examination Council shows that some 993,718 candidates sat the 2017 KCPE exams.

However, four years later only 826,807 did their KCSE exams, meaning some 166,911 did not complete Form Four.

This means, the students either did not join secondary school, dropped out, repeated class or died.

Some 1,052,344 candidates sat the KCPE exam in 2018 but only 881,416 sat the KCSE exam in 2022.

This means some 170,928 students dropped out along the way.

In 2019, some 1,083,456 candidates sat their KCPE exams, however, four years later, only 903,260 sat their KCSE examination.

This means that 180,196 candidates who sat the 2019 KCPE did not sit the KCSE exams, four years on, and remain unaccounted for by the government.