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Many KCPE candidates will not be able to join their schools of choice

KNUT Secretary-General Collins Oyuu speaks during a pat presser. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

The Form One selection and placement exercise was conducted on January 16, 2023.

Its purpose was to ensure smooth transition from primary to secondary school for the 2022 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination candidates. This process was carried out in a way that ensured fairness based on choice, merit and availability of places.

The 2022 KCPE candidates constitute the sixth and second last cohort of learners under the 8-4-4 system to be admitted to secondary schools under the government’s policy of 100 per cent transition.

The Education ministry’s commitment all along has been to ensure parents and guardians with learners joining Form One are not overburdened with unnecessary requirements. Principals have always been tasked to exercise caution while listing requirements so that the cost of education is reduced as much as possible.

One critical thing came out during the placement launch by the CS Education Ezekiel Machogu at the Kenya Institute Of Curriculum Development; that there was inadequacy of institutions in the different clusters of secondary schools available.

The CS went further to list counties with inadequate capacities according to their candidatures. From 14 sampled counties, 64.50 per cent of candidates will not get placements in secondary schools in their county schools of choice.

At the national level, only 0.501 per cent of candidates who applied to their preferred schools could get a chance to be admitted there. The ministry went further to highlight some of the most preferred national schools as Alliance Girls and Boys, Starehe Boys Centre, Kabianga High School, Butere Girls, Mang'u High School and Kenya High.

The above scenario can be considered as an eye-opener to an underlying problem that calls for serious early redress in the wake of competency-based curriculum. We will remember that an assessment to establish suitability of institutions to handle Junior Secondary Schools informed that only 49.7 per cent of the available institutions meet the threshold.

It is against this background that we need to take personal, societal and national initiatives and to partner with friends of goodwill to address this perennial deficit in capacity for infrastructure in our institutions of learning.

Many candidates will not join their schools of choice. This is unfortunate, but teachers and parents should ensure candidates make wise choices through proper advice in the coming days. Interestingly, it was noticed that 33,984 students from 2,673 schools did not select any school.

To this end, our interest is on whether there is a strict mechanism and structure to filter and confirm that only those who selected schools get admitted. Even as the CS reads the riot’s act to the heads of the concerned institutions, he has to get back to the structures within his ministry.

Owing to the revelation on infrastructural inadequacies in available secondary schools, is it still necessary to have the selection of schools done by learners through their parents especially when only a paltry 0.5 per cent of of those who qualify to join to national schools do so? Do we realise as a society that we owe the affected learners an explanation why their choices do not matter?

Is it also possible that the slots in the prestigious national schools are a preserve of the privileged in society? We say this because we have seen and witnessed imbalances in terms of how much is paid to which category of schools away from the prescribed levies by the ministry.

The CS issued fees guidelines for the boarding students which schools are expected to adhere to. Public secondary school fees for the 2023 academic calendar will not be changed and will remain at Sh53,554 while that of county and extra-county schools will remain at Sh40,555.

He also confirmed that the government will maintain its capitation per student in all public secondary schools at Sh22,244. CS Machogu said parents whose children are enrolled in public day secondary schools should not be charged fees because the government is catering for all tuition costs.

Parents were tasked by the CS to report incidents of any students being turned away for not paying higher fees and other levies to the nearest education office for action and at the same time challenged parents and guardians to take their obligations seriously by ensuring prompt payment of school fees in boarding schools.

Although that is good, the question is, has anyone minded to follow up and establish whether these directives are followed or not? 

Our opinion on placement to secondary schools is that it should be done by the government based on the performance of learners.