The long wait for the 2020 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination candidates' Form One placement ended in disappointment after the vast majority were admitted to schools that were not of their choice.
After two months of waiting since they received their KCPE results in April, the few learners who were selected to join schools of their choice celebrated while thousands who were placed in institutions that they did not even select were thrown into a dilemma over their next move.
Some parents also complained that their children had been placed in day schools that were too far away from their homes, making it impossible for them to commute.
"My daughter was eagerly waiting to join one of the extra-county schools she had selected. When we received the text from the ministry, we all went silent for a moment. Then in tears she asked, 'Where is this school?' We are disappointed," a parent whose child scored 359 marks told Nation.
Another parent said that he was shocked by the school his son was admitted to and that he did not know how to apply for a transfer.
However, in a revealing analysis of the data released by the Ministry of Education and a serious indictment of the education system, almost all the candidates selected as their preferred choices only 15 schools that have a track record of top performance in past national examinations, hoping to get a head start in life. The "in-demand schools", however, have capacity to admit only 5,568 learners.
The candidates picked these schools 1,578,741 times as either their first, second, third or fourth choices.
A total of 1,179,192 candidates sat the KCPE examinations in March.
Education cabinet secretary, George Magoha, announced that all the 8,091 candidates who scored 400 marks and above had been admitted to national and extra-county schools. The CS described the competition for the top schools as "ridiculous".
The top candidates were admitted to the national schools of their choices. Mumo Faith Kawee, who was the best KCPE candidate countrywide after scoring 433 marks, was admitted to The Kenya High School, while the top boy, Wanyonyi Samuel, will join Mang'u High School. He had 431 marks.
The placement was done through a computerised system for all categories of schools. 36,254 learners were placed in national schools, 1,827 to special needs education schools, 201,077 to extra-county schools, 213,591 to county schools and 718,516 to sub-county schools.
"We applied the principle of equity, fairness, merit, inclusiveness and affirmative action and that is why the process took longer (than usual). We trusted the computer, it doesn't have a mother or a father," said Prof Magoha, adding that all candidates have been placed in secondary schools apart from inmates, the overage and those from refugee camps.
Learners can access information about the placement by sending a short text message of their index number to USSD code 22263. Those admitted to national schools can download the placement letter from the MoE website.
However, learners who will join extra-county schools will access their letters from June 17, 2021, while letters for those joining county schools will be available the following day.
The predicament of the learners and their families is complicated by the stringent rules set by the Ministry of Education that make transferring to other public schools extremely difficult. Prof Magoha advised those dissatisfied with the placement to forward their complaints through the county director of education offices.
Popular national schools
"I'm going to switch off my phone, so don't even bother looking for me," he said, adding that parents should take their children to the schools they have been admitted to instead of canvassing for places in the top schools.
All the 15 preferred institutions are national schools and happen to have a long record of exemplary performance at the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations. There are 103 national schools in Kenya, which means there is a possibility some national schools might not have attracted any applications.
National schools are usually classified into three clusters and candidates select four schools from every cluster, three extra-county schools, two county schools and two sub-county schools.
The choices by the learners are influenced by the superior learning infrastructure in the popular national schools that is incomparable to the poor state in sub-county schools, where 718,516 learners have been placed.
The popular schools include Nanyuki High (154,524), Kabianga High (142,640), Pangani Girls' (124,982), Nyandarua High (123,976), Alliance Girls' (105,053), Maseno (104,581), Nakuru High (100,840), Kapsabet Boys' (95,642), Butere Girls' (94,774), Mbooni Girls' (93,515), Mang'u (93,271), Alliance (87,229), Kisumu Girls' (86,456), Nakuru Girls' (85,764) and Moi Girls'- Eldoret (85,494).
"In this year's selection, we moved a notch higher in applying the affirmative action provision by opening opportunities for a number of children from slums. Through this, we managed to place an additional 667 learners from slums in urban areas in national and extra-county schools," Prof Magoha said.
The Form One learners will report on August 2, 2021, one week after the other learners report for Term One. School heads will be expected to file daily returns on the reporting trends.
Chiefs and other provincial administration officers will be deployed to mop up the learners to ensure 100 per cent transition. The CS announced that Sh1.9 billion has been set aside for the purchase of more chairs and desks for both primary and secondary schools.