The many needy students out of school raise queries on scholarship programmes

By Ken K. Ndori | Monday, Jan 27th 2020 at 12:59
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After the release of the KCPE 2019 results, the country witnessed different organs of the central government, county governments, and the non-governmental and religious organisations convene ceremonies to parade hundreds of successful applicants for their various sponsorship programmes. All this was in an effort to ensure that no bright and deserving or needy learners are left out of school due to lack of school fees.

Even as the government insists that the lack of school fees should not be a barrier for a pupil to join form one, things on the ground seem utterly different. While in on a door to door campaign that intends to ensure 100% transition of all pupils who sat their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) last year join to form one, Education Cabinet Secretary Prof. Magoha revealed that over 40% of candidates are yet to join form one. The revelation, however, comes amidst desperate cries from parents who are unable to take their children to form one due to what they have termed as ‘high costs’ of education.

The story of Yusuf Tilet Aker, who, despite scoring 380 marks and securing a slot at Kapsabet Boys, had opted to repeat class eight due to lack of school fees and other requirements that were needed to join the school, is just one among the many. Aker, who stays with his 83-year-old grandmother in a grass thatched house after losing his parents in a banditry attack at a tender age of 3, had not qualified for all available sponsorship opportunities that would have seen him join to form one. If such cases ended up missing on such opportunities, one wonders the kind of needy students that were meant to benefit from such programmes.

Sponsorship programmes are meant to cushion partial or total orphans, children from poor households, especially those with no incomes who are disciplined and academically good, children from Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL), urban slums, the girl child, children in difficult circumstances, including those with special needs and rescued from difficult circumstances from the biting costs of secondary education.

Despite the fact that these programmes are meant for bright and deserving students, complaints have arisen over undeserving students benefiting from the fund. There are even instances where a student benefits in more than one programme at the expense of the many other needy students. Ghost students have also been reported to benefit from some of these programmes. Although different sponsorship programmes have their own matrix of assessing and determining who deserves to benefit from their funding, parents and even students must be sensitized in good time to avoid crying foul when they miss on such opportunities.

Sponsoring organisations have the responsibility of ensuring they reach out to all parts of the country in good time, with information on the qualification criteria and any other information the beneficiaries may need to have. All the needy cases should be objectively assessed be assessed by the field officers in order to ensure only the deserving cases make it to the merit list.

Parents and guardians should remain aware of the fact that sponsorship programmes do not come as a guarantee for every needy student. Even with the utmost fairness, some needy learners could still end up missing out. As a result, they should endeavor to put in place timely measures to ensure their children are able to transition smoothly to secondary schools. As the government implements the Free Primary Education, parents and guardians have always been encouraged to take advantage and save little for secondary school.

All in all, the cost of education should never be a barrier to any learner transiting to secondary school. The government, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, should put in place modalities that will ensure secondary schools do not become a hindrance to learners achieving this basic right by putting so many financial demands on the parents.

The writer is a commentator on Education issues.

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