More than 325,000 students who sat the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination last year have not reported for admission to secondary schools, causing serious concerns about the success of the government's 100 per cent transition policy.
Failure to report is despite an extension of the deadline by a week to ensure the policy succeeds.
Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha admitted on Wednesday that the ministry faced challenges with only 750,000 students out of 1,075,201 having reported to various schools even as the one-week deadline extension ends today.
The transition policy has been one of President Uhuru Kenyatta's legacy projects in education.
Poverty, insecurity in some regions, early marriages and pregnancies and placement in schools not favoured by the students are some of the reasons the students have cited for failure to report.
The ministry is expected to give an update on the admissions status today.
"We're wondering why most of the children have not reported to school," Prof Magoha said on Monday when he toured Kibra Constituency in Nairobi in search of students who had not reported and appealed to them to do so.
He has dismissed poverty as the reason the students have stayed away from school. "There's another problem. It cannot be because there's no money," he said on Wednesday, adding that the schools are adequately funded.
Prof Magoha appealed for help from the police and provincial administration in finding students who are yet to report. He has repeatedly warned principals against turning away students for lack of fees.
Before President Kenyatta left for London last week, Prof Magoha briefed him. The President was unhappy that so many learners were yet to take up their places despite the government's heavy investment in their education.
The current enrolment figures are a poor showing compared to the 2019 admission rates when the government launched the policy.
Official data from the ministry shows that Murang'a County posted the best transition rate at 107.66 per cent, having expected 25,315 students but ended up enrolling 26,720.
Kwale County had the worst transition rate of 78.94 per cent with 11,123 students turning up out of the expected 14,091.
Despite the government funding, many parents still find the cost of secondary education beyond their reach.
According to guidelines on the government funds, day schools should spend the money on tuition (Sh4,644), medical insurance (Sh2,000), activity fee (Sh1,500), strengthening of Mathematics and Science in Secondary Education programme (Sh200), maintenance and improvement (Sh6,000) and Sh6,000 on local travel and transport, administration, electricity, water and personnel emoluments.
Other expenses like meals and school uniforms are financed by the parents. They also fund other development projects in the schools, but must seek approval from the ministry before collecting any levies.
Boarding schools, which are preferred by many students and parents, receive the same Sh22,244 capitation per student from the government, but the parental financial responsibility is higher.
They have to pay Sh53,554 to take their children to Category A schools (all national schools, and extra-county schools in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Kisumu, Nyeri, Thika and Eldoret).
Parents whose children enrol in Category B schools are expected to pay Sh40,535 annually.
These are the other extra-county schools and all other boarding schools. Capitation for special needs schools is Sh57,974 with the parent expected to pay Sh12,790.