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Time for us to do away with boarding schools

By Wilson Sossion | August 13th 2020 at 11:00:00 GMT +0300

A Form One student takes a nap during their admission to Kakamega High School in January 2020. [File, Standard

We must now deal with our addiction to boarding schools. Kenya is among few countries with expensive top heavy delivery of education through boarding schools.

It is important to know why boarding schools were established. They were missionary centres for holding girls and boys to shield them from harmful traditional practices such as cattle rustling and female genital mutilation.

Categories of schools that are legitimised through policy namely national schools, extra county, county, sub county, boarding primary and day schools are to blame for the inequality in the delivery of education. Access and equity is the driving force on delivery of education.

Therefore, we should totally abolish boarding schools of all forms at both primary and secondary levels. All children should access quality education through quality day schools where they live.

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We should stop investment in expensive boarding schools and focus on providing education through day schools up to grade 12 at the community level. We should aim to achieve state-of-the-art infrastructure that supports delivery of curriculum both in and out of class.

We must ensure we have quality classrooms, laboratories, workshops, sanitation facilities, music rooms and play fields for different games instead of expensive boarding schools that promote inequality. As rightfully stated by Education CS George Magoha, the future is indeed in day schools.

Education should be localised, both in terms of provision of teachers and learners. This is the biggest reform agenda if we are to achieve the values we are seeking through Competence Based Curriculum National Goal, SDG 4 target 7 to ensure all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development and become global citizens. This would be achieved through daily management of children through interaction and cooperation with their households and schools on a daily basis.

The delivery of basic education in Kenya has been slow due to a number of bottlenecks. The adoption of SDGs and 2030 agenda highlights the need to ensure equitable access to quality public education. While significant progress on access has been made, a backlog still exists in the provision of education to all sections of the society and retention of learners from early learning until the end of higher education.

Equitable education systems are fair and inclusive and support students to reach their learning potential without either formally or informally pre-setting barriers or lowering expectations. An equitable quality education system can redress the effect of broader social and economic inequalities.

In the wake of Covid-19, it is almost obvious that our government will not be able to handle the large numbers of students in primary and secondary boarding schools due to inadequate infrastructure. It will be difficult to adhere to the Ministry of Health's directives on social distancing and provision of reliable water supply, among others.

Most boarding schools have inadequate facilities, unhealthy buildings, poor social environment and lack a healthy diet for learners. The immediate solution, therefore, is to educate children in their neighbourhoods.

Adopting the community school strategy, improvement and development of day schools will save learners the agony of travelling long distances to access education. Community schools have become increasingly popular, not only in the United States, but also in other parts of the world. They are based on the assumption that “inequality has more to do with policies and social/economic structures rather than with the characteristics of individual children and their families".

Thus we should make day schools more attractive through deliberate funding and provision of adequate high standard facilities and motivated teachers. Capacity building sessions and psycho-social support should be organised for the teachers and their working environment improved to boost their effectiveness during and after the pandemic. The government should explore incentives that can help attract and retain quality teachers in public day schools.

Research indicates that far more children attend day schools worldwide than boarding schools. In terms of access to education, day and community schools promote more access than boarding schools. The government should thus seek to limit expenditure on management, building and running of boarding schools and instead build more day schools.

Abolishing boarding schools is inevitable due to the challenges brought by Covid-19 pandemic. Localising teaching and learning is a strategy that should be adopted as a post Covid-19 strategy. Day schools need to be enhanced to match the international standards where quality, access and equity are given priority.

It is time to reform our education system to ensure schooling is accessed at the local level and 100 per cent of our schools are day schools from kindergarten to grade 12.

Mr Sossion, a nominated MP, is the Knut Secretary General


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