3 December 2012

Kenya: National School Upgrade Should Not Be Haphazard


The Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examination starts tomorrow. Students preparing for the exam are burning the midnight oil while family and friends are praying and wishing them success.

The KCPE examination helps to assess and rank students so that those who score high marks are selected to join the coveted national schools while the others join district or other schools.

A circular issued this week by the Permanent Secretary for education, Prof George Godia, stated that 30 schools have been elevated to national status in the current financial year to bring the total up to 78.

He also said another 27 schools will be elevated in the next financial year. The more national schools we have, the better. There are many benefits of national schools but I choose to dwell on this one in this time when we are ethnically polarised.

First and foremost, the schools help in national cohesion because they admit students from all corners of the country. As students live, study and interact for four years, they appreciate diversity and overcome the ethnic stereotypes that they have been socialised to believe as they grow up. This is very important for our country.

However, I have a problem with the way schools have been upgraded to national schools. The government is conducting this exercise in a hurried and almost haphazard manner.

Do these schools have similar facilities as the 'traditional' national schools? Is it fair to the students to tell them that they have been admitted to a national school that does not have facilities that befit an institution of that status?

In as much as the Ministry of Education has set aside funds for the schools to construct facilities, this exercise should be done in a phased approach -- benchmarks for national schools set, schools that are to become national schools earmarked, funds provided.

The upgrading should be done only after the schools have met all the benchmarks for national schools. The Ministry of Education should have an inclusive supervisory team that reviews the infrastructure and other requirements and certifies that a school is ready for upgrading.

Secondly, the Ministry of Education should consult widely with stakeholders in the education sector. I write this because of late, there have been complaints in the print and social media that the ministry is making decisions without adequately consulting the stakeholders. Cases in point are in regards to the Education Bill 2012 and the criteria for form one selection.

Sponsors, parents, students and private investors must be consulted because all of these players contribute to creating an enabling environment for the students to learn.

They not only have to be consulted but also what is agreed upon should be implemented. This is because as beneficiaries, decisions that are made today will impact on the lives of the students significantly, today and for years to come. The decisions therefore had better be solely in their interest.

The writer of this article, a trained teacher, works for Unicef's Regional Office in Nairobi. The content of this article is her personal opinion. njerimuathe@gmail.com

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