How poor infrastructure hinders children performance

Desks infested by termites at Kasiela Primary School in Baringo South, May 2022. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Inadequate infrastructure in schools has been blamed for poor teaching and learning outcomes across the country.

The situation gets worse for public schools both in urban as well as schools in rural areas.

This is according to a report by the USAWA Agenda, which shows various school factors including staffing, learners’ population, and sanitation facilities have been a hindrance to student performance.

Class sizes are smaller in private schools compared to public schools where congestion grows as pupils move to upper grades.

In public schools, an average of 45 pre-primary schoolchildren sit in one class, while private schools allocate 31 children per class.

Whereas public school classes accommodate between 73 to 78 pupils, a private school’s number reduces from between 18 to 26 pupils.

“An average grade 7 class in a private school has less than a third of the number of learners in a grade 7 class in public school,” the report reads in part.

The report dubbed ‘Foundation, Literacy and Numeracy Assessment Report 2023’ also reveals private schools have better facilities than public schools.

This includes schools’ libraries, laboratories for Junior Secondary, and internet connectivity.

The report also underscores the dire situation in schools where due to congestion the few desks force public schools to make pupils sit on the floor while at school.

Most learners in public schools continue learning under trees in public schools more than those enrolled in private schools.

The report further points out that most schools use plywood or mats to separate classrooms to accommodate high numbers of enrolment in schools.

“Both rural and urban schools have an almost constant number of streams across all the grades which may indicate high retention rate,” the report says.

However, the public schools have an upper hand in playing fields for children’s co-curriculum activities.

14 out of 100 public schools and five out of 100 private schools have no fence with two in 10 public schools and seven in 10 schools partially fenced.

This week, Nyakach MP Joshua Aduma in Parliament put Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu to task to address the inadequate infrastructure in schools.

Machogu said the government had allocated Sh3.3 billion towards improving infrastructure in schools through MPs.

“The situation in primary and secondary schools is pathetic and we want to progressively see how to remedy the problems in Nairobi before we move to other cities,” Machogu said.

Thika MP Alice Ng’ang’a proposed a shift in learning in schools to ensure students are given proper attention by teachers.

Speaking at Chania Girls, the MP said this will remedy the challenge of teacher shortage as well as infrastructural constraints.

“As we continue constructing new schools to ease pressure in the existing schools, we need to introduce shift learning because the high population is not doing us good,” she said.

Last year, the MP with other stakeholders in the sector converted Jamhuri Primary School into a secondary school to ease pressure.

Chania Girls high school principal Mary Mwangi, said in the last three years, the majority of her learners were studying under tents.

“We have converted one classroom into a dormitory. We have also done a makeshift dormitory as we look forward to the completion of our hostel,” she stated.

Usawa Agenda Executive Director Emmanuel Manyasa said the government continues to turn a blind eye on the sector.

“It is urgent we have missed the steps that we shouldn't have missed. Learners need more teachers in class as a matter of urgency, in addition to a good learning environment not only for education but also for self-growth,” he said.

Manyasi blamed the ministry for dragging its feet in the proper implementation of  Competency-Based Curriculum saying this would compromise the future of millions of children.

“We need to look at the gaps that exist in schools so that we can fill them. Currently, we have two years for the transition to senior secondary for the CBC cohort. What measures has the government taken to map up schools for learners’ pathways?” he asked.