Expanded education needs more resources
All Standard Eight candidates, with a few exceptions, have been picked to join secondary school next year in line with the government’s objective of getting all learners to acquire 12 years of education.
This is a major feat in the quest to realise universal basic education, which is a global commitment.
Basic education has been expanded to cover primary and secondary schooling, which is considered the minimal level that all should attain and which assures learners of reasonable knowledge and competences for further education and training or work.
In total, 1,083,456 candidates have been selected, with the cream of 33,009 picked for national schools. A critical challenge is fairness and equity in placement.
On this, Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha has made a pledge: that candidates will be placed in schools of their choice and based on performance, so long as available slots allow.
This is paramount. Past experience has been distressing.
Unqualified candidates got places they never merited, leaving out the deserving.
But then, it would also be impractical to expect every learner to get a school of their choice.
However, since the government introduced the 100 per cent transition policy from primary school to Form One last year, the debate on secondary education is no longer about access but quality.
For it is not enough to join Form One but to also acquire relevant and desirable knowledge and skills.
The expanded transition has created enormous challenges for secondary schools.
As the government focuses on sending all the pupils to secondary school, it has not provided commensurate resources. Secondary schools are bursting at the seams.
Classrooms, hostels, laboratories and workshops are stretched beyond limit. Enrolment has not been matched with infrastructure.
On average, secondary schools now have 60 students in a class, instead of the recommended 45. Teacher shortage is biting.
Figures from the Teachers Service Commission show a deficit of more than 60,000 teachers in post-primary institutions.
And the figures rise by the year as enrolments surge but teacher recruitment is frozen.
Independent statistics indicate that, due to the shortage, secondary schools employ up to 40 per cent of their teaching staff, which severely hits their recurrent budgets.
A matter that also needs to be addressed is funding. The government has capped the fees at Sh53,000 a year.
On top of that, it allocates Sh22,000 for every learner in subsidy. The figures have been static for five years as inflation soars.
At any rate, the subsidy is never remitted in full and on time. The net result is that secondary schools cannot meet their budgets.
Match expanded secondary education with adequate resources.