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Scramble for Kenya's dream national schools

Education CS Ezekiel Machogu, PS Basic Education Dr Belio Kipsang and Lenana Principal William Kiplagat Kemei during 2024 form one placement. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Kabianga High School, Nanyuki, Pangani Girls and Kapsabet Boys emerged as the most sought-after secondary schools by the 2023 KCPE candidates, further asserting their dominance as the most preferred schools in recent years.

This even as the placement exercise dashed dreams of millions of learners who sought places in national schools as these institutions admitted only 42,927 in this year’s placement cycle.

Another 274,746 will join extra-county schools, 288,201 will be admitted in county schools while 2,225 will join special needs schools.

The bulk of Form Ones, about 792,230, will join sub-county schools.

This will be the last cohort of Form One students to be admitted to secondary schools as the 8-4-4 comes to an end in primary schools.

Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu yesterday the Form One learners will report to their respective schools beginning January 15. He spoke at Lenana School during the release of the Form One placement results.

However, the selection has dashed hopes of millions of students who hoped to secure places in prestigious national schools.

But reality painted the picture of a bumpy ride ahead for the 2023 KCPE candidates who will have to cope with limited spaces in their respective secondary schools.

Data from the Education ministry revealed that the top 10 selected national schools were selected by a combined 1.2 million candidates.

Kabianga High School, a national school with a capacity of only 672 students, was overwhelmed by a staggering selection of 186,357 students, a ratio of nearly 280 hopefuls for every single slot. 

Last year, Kabianga was selected by 153,074 learner seeking to join the institution.

Nanyuki High School, with a capacity of 480, was deluged with 158,741 applications while Pangani Girls was selected by 144,542 candidates for its 384 spaces.

Last year, Nanyuki High School attracted 148,827 applicants and Pangani Girls was selected by 119,265 candidates.

Kapsabet Boys, the fourth most sought after secondary school, declared a capacity of 432, but attracted 143,723 applications.

Alliance Girls saw 135,033 candidates showing interest in joining the institution despite having only 384 slots up for grabs.

Sixth position was taken by Maseno School with a capacity of 672 but selected by 123,777 candidates.

Nakuru High School, Butere Girls High School, Mangu High School and Alliance also attracted over 100,000 selections making them among the top 10 most sought schools.

Machogu said the selection was done based on merit, choice, equity, affirmative action and availability of space. However, education officials are scratching their heads over 28,052 candidates who did not make any choices of schools they wish to join in various categories.

Out of this some, 222 candidates skipped national schools, 4,839 did not select extra-county schools while 8,716 failed to apply for county schools and 14,277 did not pick sub-county schools. 

According to the CS, candidates have been placed in public sub-county secondary schools nearest to their former primary schools. 

Also placed, the CS said, are candidates who sat the KCPE exams from primary schools within refugee camps.

During the placement exercise, it emerged that some seven counties are grappling with a shortage of secondary school capacity to accommodate the 2023 candidates.

The affected counties include Nairobi, Kwale, Narok, Kilifi, Mombasa, Kajiado and Isiolo, affecting a total of 62,007 Form Ones.

To accommodate the learners, the ministry assured that the learners will be admitted in neigbouring counties.

“To mitigate the acute shortage in Nairobi, the government has started construction of 3,500 classrooms. I implore upon the stakeholders of the affected regions to mobilise resources to urgently address the inadequacy in preparation for the rollout of senior school in January 2026,” said Machogu.

He assured that all candidates who scored 400 marks and above were placed in either national or extra-county schools of their choice.

“It is important to appreciate the fact that the selection and placement exercise was strictly guided by the principles of merit, choice, equity, affirmative action, and availability of space,” the CS noted.

Through affirmative action, the Education Ministry indicated that it had placed 130 learners in national schools and 167 to extra-county schools.

Machogu further warned school heads against inflating school fees for new students, insisting that fees for boarding secondary schools remain unchanged.

“I wish to state that the boarding fees charged in public secondary schools will remain unchanged in 2024,” the CS clarified.

Citing Article 53 of the Constitution which states that basic education is free and compulsory, Machogu said the hike in fees risks reserving education as a privilege for the rich.

“Education should be accessible to us all, including the children who come from poor backgrounds,” he noted. 

Under the school fees guidelines, students in national schools are required to pay Sh53,554 while fees for extra-county and county schools is Sh40,535.

Machogu, at the same time, directed schools not to dictate or compel parents to source uniform from exclusive dealers and instead give parents the liberty to source school uniforms from any distributors of their choice.

He reminded school principals to only provide specifications instead of dictating specific vendors.

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