Kenya: High Schools Sag Under the Massive Weight of Form One Students

19 January 2020

As Form One admission enters its second week following an extension by the Ministry of Education, principals are having a nightmare as they attempt to make the more than a million learners as comfortable as possible.

INFRASTRUCTURE

School heads who spoke to the Sunday Nation criticised the ministry for failing to support the policy of 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary school.

They said the government had not released cash meant for infrastructure, totalling Sh6,000 per learner for the 2.5 million students.

Many wanted to know how the government expects them to accommodate the students.

The heads have to contend with large numbers of learners, teacher shortages and other challenges that continue to affect the implementation of the policy that is in its third year.

As happened in the past two years, boarding school heads have come up with new ways of accommodating the growing number of students.

Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association chairman Kahi Indimuli yesterday said principals were determined to have all students in the learning institutions but urged the government to play its role too.

CONGESTION

"We have to address the challenges of infrastructure and shortage of teachers if the policy is to succeed," Mr Indimuli said.

He added that parents should be called upon to help build more classes, dormitories, laboratories and other facilities.

Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang said the Form One admission had been extended to January 24 "to ensure no child is locked out of secondary school".

"Schools should use the extended period to trace students who have not reported and capture those who have reported in the National Education Management Information System (Nemis)," Dr Kipsang said, adding that principals should report to county education officials any child who is out of school.

In western Kenya, schools are grappling with stretched facilities and congestion in classrooms.

At Chavakali High School in Vihiga County, for example, every stream has an average of 70 students. The school has eight streams.

MEAL SHIFTS

The national school faces an acute shortage of teachers to handle the student population that is in excess of 2,000, Mr John Kuria - the principal - told the Sunday Nation.

He added that students now take meals in two shifts to avoid congestion in the dining hall.

Mr Kuria said accommodating the huge number of boys has become a problem since the government has not sent money to build more dormitories and classrooms.

In Homa Bay County, some schools have converted their libraries to classrooms as the student population bulges.

Agoro Sare High School in Rachuonyo South has makeshift classrooms for Form Ones.

School headteacher James Momanyi said the ministry gave letters of admission to 480 students.

Mr Momanyi added that the school is under pressure from parents to admit more students following improved Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination results last year.

CLASS STREAMS

"We are soon opening a new dormitory to be used by the extra students. We need more classes and laboratories. The dining hall should also be expanded. We are doing all we can to manage the situation but it is overwhelming," Mr Momanyi said.

Xaverian Secondary School in Kisumu is also grappling with a huge number of Form One students.

Mr Matthews Nyangao - the headteacher - said 100 Form Ones had already reported to the school.

"The school can comfortably accommodate 120 Form One students but the extra number will definitely strain our facilities," he said.

Mr Nyangao added that the school has two streams in every class and needs an extra one.

Lions High School is in a similar predicament as its principal, Ms Yudiah Oyier, said the number of learners had gone up by 10 per cent compared to 2019.

TEACHING STAFF

"Last year, we received 350 students but we expect more than 400 by the end of this month," she said.

Ms Oyier added that the eight-stream school faces a shortage of teaching staff and asked the government to address the problem.

The 100 per cent transition policy has also led to congestion in Kisii County secondary schools.

Like elsewhere in the country, principals have resorted to being innovative in order to accommodate the large numbers of learners.

The administration of Kereri Girls High School plans to convert the dining hall into a dormitory.

The principal - Teresiah Atieno - told the Sunday Nation that the hall can accommodate 300 students of the 550 admitted.

The administrators of Cardinal Otunga High School Mosocho have raised concerns over the high number of new students.

TOILETS AND BATHROOMS

The school expected 380 Form Ones but more than 400 have already been admitted so far.

At Nyabigena High School, students have to eat in shifts.

Many of the new students have not yet reported but teachers interviewed said they are doing all they can to ensure learning is not disrupted.

At Njoro Boys High School in Nakuru, classrooms that are meant for 40 learners have an average of 60.

"We have no problem with the dormitories and other boarding facilities as they were renovated last year but the classrooms are congested," a teacher who was admitting the newcomers said on Friday.

Other facilities that will be stretched to limit the with the increased number of students are toilets and bathrooms, playing fields, clinics and workshops.

Solai Day Secondary School principal Richard Wanyiri said the institution expects 50 Form Ones although only 30 had reported by Friday.

KEEP RISING

"We hope the remaining ones will take up their places before the end of this month," the headteacher said.

Tenwek Boys High head Mutali Chesebe said the school has put in place mechanisms accommodate the large number of new students.

"Other than the temporary dormitory put up, we built more bathrooms and toilets during the December holidays. The student population drastically shot up when Tenwek Boys was made a national school in 2014," he said.

Form One streams will increase to seven from six, each having an average of 54 students.

It means Tenwek Boys High will have one of the highest numbers of learners in Bomet County.

The Kaplong Boys High School administration has converted a classroom into a dormitory as the number of new students keeps rising.

LIBRARY SERVICES

School principal Richard Sang said it will take a year to build an extra dormitory as the ones available can only house 900 learners.

Mr Sang 400 students had reported to school by Friday.

Before the 100 per cent transition policy, the school used to admit a maximum of 280 Form Ones.

The situation is the same at Kericho Boys, Kipsigis Girls, Tengecha and Litein Boys High School in the neighbouring Kericho County.

In 2018, the then Auditor-General Edward Ouko tabled a report in the National Assembly that showed secondary schools in the country did not have adequate dormitories, classrooms, dining halls, libraries and teachers and other infrastructure.

NO LABORATORIES

"To cope with the situation, some schools have introduced triple-decker beds in their dormitories, contrary to quality assurance standards that require beds to be either single or double-decker," the report said.

Mr Ouko's report added that most high schools have no library services while others have converted classrooms into libraries.

Some secondary schools also have no laboratories. Students are made to sit for practical examinations in shifts.

Some laboratories lack the basic facilities like Bunsen burners, the report added.

Reported by Ouma Wanzala, Vitalis Kimutai, Francis Mureithi,Derick Luvega, George Odiwuor, Lenny Otieno, Donna Atola, Benson Ayienda and Wycliffe Nyaberi

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