Mother's appeal: Please don't kill my dream to join secondary school

38-year-old Josephine Atieno sat for her KCPE examination at Goshenlite preparatory school in Kisumu and scored 366 marks. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

It is 3 pm at Goshen Preparatory Primary school in Manyatta slums, Kisumu.

Josephine Atieno, 38, is preparing to leave the school compound to go back home.

When schools had closed, Atieno was coming to the school for private studies.

Despite sitting for her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE), and scoring 366 marks, she is yet to receive her secondary school admission letter.

She says, she is irked since most school principals have refused to give her an admission letter, directing her to visit the county director of Education offices.

The mother of six, who lives a few meters from the school with her husband, says that it is unfair to be discriminated against due to her age, citing that she is determined to join high school and later, join a teachers’ college. 

Atieno said that her father couldn’t afford to pay her school fees and was forced to drop out of school in 2000, and get married.  

 “We were many children and my father was not able to afford our education. I dropped out of school in class eight in the second term. I stayed at home for some time, before eventually opting for marriage,” she narrates.

 After 20 years out of school, she pleaded with her husband to allow her to join the school.

“Initially, my husband did not support my idea and kept asking why I was interested to go back to school at my age. I insisted and one day, he asked me to look for a school that will help pay my school fees. He, however, gave me conditions to ensure the children were catered for before I reported to school,” she says.

She says a friend helped her enrol at Goshen preparatory primary school.

“I enrolled in class seven since the class eight pupils had already been registered to sit for KCPE. We did most of our studies from home due to the covid-19 pandemic,” she said.

She says her woes began after the KCPE results were announced.

All her classmates received their secondary school admission letters, but she never received hers.

“My secondary school admission letter was not there and I was worried. My teachers could not explain why my letter was the only one missing,” she explains.

Atieno says, she was forced to look for a secondary school and start private studies because she did not want to miss out on education.

 She is now pleading with the Ministry of Education to allow her to join any day secondary school in Kisumu.

“I visited the sub-county education office and I was advised to join the adult school. They said, there is a law by the Ministry that does not allow me to sit in the same class with young ones because of my age,” she says.

Officials at the Ministry of Education office then directed Atieno to join the adult school and even helped her to secure a chance in one of the adult schools in Kisumu.

Atieno says balancing between adult school and family time is difficult and could strain her relationship with her family.

“The adult school in Lutheran Kisumu has only two classes daily. The private classes are held early morning and the other, after 3 pm. I am not able to attend the 3 pm class because I have a child who returns home from school around that time,” she explains.

Atieno adds: “I am not able to attend a private one, which is more flexible because it is very expensive. I really want to continue with learning and I hope I can get help soon.”

 Goshen preparatory primary school Director, Evans Ongulu, says he is not aware of the law, which bars Atieno from joining a secondary school.

Angulu says Atieno is a bright learner, who deserves a chance to continue with her secondary studies. 

He noted that they have enrolled many adult students, who have proceeded to secondary school. 

“Most of the students have been boys and they received admission letters to secondary schools. I do not understand why Atieno’s case is unique. Even in her class, there was another student, who was over 20 years old, and she was admitted to high school. The Ministry of education ought to give us the way forward,” he noted.

Nyanza Regional Director of Education, Nelson Sifuna, noted that Atieno has the chance to continue with her education but can only be admitted to an adult school.

“The ministry has come up with some guidelines and rules that don’t allow adults to share the same learning environment like classrooms with the young learners. She can only enrol to a school offering adult education,” noted Sifuna.