- Secondary schools will receive first-grade learners as well as the pioneer cohort of seventh-grade learners under the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC).
- The chaos will span the next two years as high schools have dual admissions in 2023 and 2024 as the last two 8-4-4 classes leave primary school and sixth graders progress to seventh year, which is part of lower secondary school.
- The latest economic survey shows that 1,268,200 pupils will progress to seventh year and another 1,177,000 from eighth standard to first, compared to 1,081,900 slots.
When Kenya announced that lower secondary learners, around 1.3 million students advancing from grade seven would be housed in existing secondary schools rather than primary schools, in addition to the 1.2 million students joining the first class from the eighth grade in the old education system, he failed to paint a critical picture of one thing.
How will more than 2.4 million students share the limited classes, canteen toilets and teachers?
From next year, Kenya’s school system is set to change dramatically as the first cohort of students graduate from junior high school. Secondary schools will receive first-grade learners as well as the pioneer cohort of seventh-grade learners under the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC).
“There will definitely be a population explosion and this will put a strain on the infrastructure and resources available in secondary schools,” says education expert Charles Akach.
The chaos will span the next two years as high schools have dual admissions in 2023 and 2024 as the last two 8-4-4 classes leave primary school and sixth graders progress to seventh year, which is part of lower secondary school.
Under the CBC, elementary education is divided into pre-primary and primary education, lasting two and six years respectively. Lower secondary starts from grades seven to ninth, while upper secondary runs from grades 10 to 12. This is a 2-6-3-3-3 teaching cycle.
The latest economic survey shows that 1,268,200 pupils will progress to seventh year and another 1,177,000 from eighth standard to first, compared to 1,081,900 slots.
Dual admission is expected to boost enrollment from more than 4.3 million students to 6.1 million in the first year and 7.7 million the following year, according to analysis by the Implementation Task Force of the CBC appointed by the Cabinet Secretary for Education, George Magoha.
Data from the task force indicates that there will be a shortage of more than 1.5 million places in secondary schools next year.
“The pressure will ease in 2025 when there is no 8-4-4 cohort moving from elementary school to high school,” the CBC task force report read.
However, for many parents and teachers, the concern is how existing secondary schools will be able to accommodate the high numbers and how primary schools will use the infrastructure that had been put in place for Year 8 and Year 4. The biggest beneficiaries will be schools that have both primary and secondary classrooms.
The other challenge will be to accommodate both boys and girls, as a large number of secondary schools in Kenya are single-sex and accommodating both genders means more investment.
Official data shows that Kenya has 10,482 secondary schools, of which 9,238 are public and 1,244 are private.
There are a total of 32,594 primary schools in the country, 23,566 being public or public while the remaining 9,028 are private.
The current batch of class eight will take their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) in December and will be the sixth batch of learners to be admitted to secondary schools under the government’s 100% transition policy.
Public secondary schools are already struggling with congestion that has raised health and safety concerns for students sharing crowded dormitories and sanitary facilities.
Congestion has worsened every year following the government’s failure to expand infrastructure.
Martin Mburu, a private school operator and head of the Private Schools Association of Kenya, notes that the majority of students coming from private primary schools are unprepared for the overcrowding they find in public secondary schools, which leads to frustration.
The Jubilee administration hopes the policy it launched in 2018 – which pushes for all children to be admitted to school – will be one of its lasting legacies.
When releasing the results of the Form One placement, Professor Magoha urged parents to be content with the schools their children have been admitted to.
But the selection process has been marred by criticism. Critics say Professor Magoha aimed to send learners to public schools, leaving private schools struggling with empty slots and underutilized resources.
“The biggest problem is that the government does not recognize that private schools provide quality education,” Mburu said.
In the just-released results for the Form 1 selection, a large number of applicants missed their preferred national schools after applicants exceeded available slots by up to 400%.
For two consecutive years, Nanyuki High, a national boys’ boarding school located in Nanyuki Town, Laikipia County, has maintained its ranking as the institution receiving the highest number of KCPE applicants, followed by Kabianga High and Pangani Girls.
Benta Abuya, a researcher, believes that the solution to the problem of over-application is a total mental shift from what she calls “average score syndrome”.
“Schools and Kenyans in general should move away from the average score syndrome as this is what makes parents prefer certain schools,” said a researcher from the Center for Population and Health Research in Africa.
Far from the problems surrounding the display of Form One, more is expected in the CBC system.
Last week, a section of government officials said learners moving on to seventh grade would be forced to be day schools only for Professor Magoha to issue a statement – two days later – saying they would both attend boarding schools and day schools.
Kenyans took to social media to decry what they called a “mess” and a “rushed process to the detriment of learners’ futures”.
“Imagining it as coeducational day schools, the little girls[around 13 years old]could be taken advantage of by the big boys,” one parent lamented.
Professor Magoha said the ministry has identified 1,500 primary schools which will host junior secondary schools as they have adequate learning and teaching facilities and land for expansion.
To address overcrowding, the government said it plans to expand CBC’s infrastructure by constructing 10,000 classrooms worth 8 billion shillings in preparation for the rollout of lower secondary in 2023 .
But how fast can expansion happen?
“Some of these schools will be further developed to have a fully-fledged secondary wing in the future,” he said.
The “rushed” implementation of the CBC worries many experts. Why would the government not take time before deploying it?
“Kenyans have been placed in a delicate position with regard to the implementation of the CBC. Our biggest concern is what the urgency is,” said Mr. Akach, a former secondary school principal.
Critics also argue that Kenya has not had enough teachers to handle the large number of learners.
“Beyond the classrooms, there is the whole question of the number of teachers that will be needed to be able to deliver the education,” said Sam Otieno, national leader of the Regional Education Learning Initiative. .
Kenya has 116,024 secondary school teachers, with the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) pledging to train 60,000 by December, before seventh graders move on to lower secondary.
Government spokesman Cyrus Oguna said the ministry had “seriously looked at all aspects of the CBC” and expressed optimism that the education system would succeed.
However, this is subject to the argument that secondary school principals had started complaining about the overuse of infrastructure a year after the introduction of the 100% transition policy from primary to secondary.
In 2019, secondary school principals lobbied Parliament for a fee increase of up to 17,773 shillings per pupil per year, citing rising costs of running and maintaining classrooms and offices.
This was barely a year after the introduction of free day secondary education allocating Sh22,224 to each student, as part of a review to increase transition rates from primary to secondary.
They lamented how rising enrollment is putting a strain on resources, especially food and utilities like electricity.
In their argument, secondary school principals noted that the current fee structure does not include the additional costs of teaching subjects such as art and design as well as power mechanics.