Secondary school principals have less than a month to put up extra classrooms and dormitories in preparation for the admission of Form Ones on August 2, which is expected to stretch the capacity of facilities.
The schools are also under pressure to buy new beds and desks to cope with the surge in admissions that saw some institutions allocated Form One students beyond their capacity as the government pushes for 100 per cent transition
A countrywide check by the Nation found ongoing works in some schools on new buildings while others are busy renovating existing but previously unused structures to create room for the 1,171,265 learners expected to join secondary schools next month. Other buildings will be converted to classrooms, too.
Many schools have been allocated more learners than they can accommodate as the government enforces the 100 per cent transition policy, now in its fourth year.
Apart from the officially allocated learners, thousands of parents have placed transfer requests in some schools that have a history of performing well in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examinations.
The situation has been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, which requires that learners observe social distancing -- something that's practically impossible now.
The majority of the learners will join public schools as private secondary schools have a capacity of 70,000 only. While the principals work to create extra space, it will create another problem -- the need to employ more teachers.
Boarding schools are expected to be worst hit as 547,251 students have been admitted to national, extra-country and county schools, all which are boarding. However, the remaining majority will attend sub-county (day schools).
While the government has allocated funds through the Maintenance and Improvement Fund, some teachers complained that it is inadequate while others cited complications with the requirement that utilisation of the fund be approved by directors of education and the ministry. Some alleged that they had been asked to inflate the cost of projects so as to spare kickbacks for the officials.
Approvals for projects not exceeding Sh5 million as per the circular are supposed to be sought from the county education directors while those for up to Sh10 million are supposed to be approved by regional coordinator of education.
Above those two categories, authorisation to spend is supposed to be sought from the ministry, with most head teachers now complaining that "the process is tedious, full of corruption traps and serving to aggravate the problem than it is solving it."
"The infrastructure grant issued has helped in building a few classrooms but we are still overstretched. We will be seeking alternatives, which include converting classrooms into dormitories and using tents to accommodate more students," the principal of Masara Secondary School in Migori County, Daniel Aloka, said.
Kapsabet Boys' High School, which emerged top in the 2020 KCSE examinations, requires eight extra classrooms to accommodate the 450 Form One students expected to report next month.
"This will make it 40 classrooms from the current 32, with a population of about 2,000. We are seeking funds from the Ministry of Education for new classrooms," said the principal, Mr Kipchumba Maiyo.
At Kisii High School, the management has converted six laboratories into classrooms as they expect more than 550 Form One students.
"We have 29 classrooms against 2, 300 learners. We need more than 11 classrooms," said the principal, Mr Fred Mogaka.
The school is banking on an ultra-modern four-storey-building whose construction is being financed by the school's old boys association to the tune of Sh30 million.
The construction started in September last year but it is not yet completed.
"We are rushing against time to complete three classrooms, which will assist us accommodate some Form Ones" Mr Mogaka said.
Kakamega School enrolment will be pushed to 2,200 when 500 Form One students report. The principal, Mr Gerald Orina, said some existing facilities had been renovated to provide accommodation after the school received Sh6 million from the government for refurbishing classrooms and dormitories.
"We received the funds for the specific vote heads and we have managed to carry out repairs. The congestion scare we had anticipated has somewhat eased," said Mr Orina.
However, he said the school has a shortage of 96 teachers, which will impact on curriculum delivery due to over-stretched lessons.
The principal of Aldina Visram High School Juma Mshimu said the school is prepared to accommodate the 250 new students it has been allocated. The school, which has a population of 810 students, has constructed three new laboratories to ease congestion.
"There's a challenge due to the 100 per cent transition policy. A class that's supposed to accommodate 35 students has to take 50 or even more. We have 17 classrooms and two staffrooms instead of one to ensure we keep social distancing and ease congestion."
At Chavakali High School, the funds from the government are being used to put up a dormitory that will house about 470 Form Ones. The principal, Mr John Kuira, said they will complete the ground floor first so as to cope with the new admissions. The school has a shortage of 26 teachers.
At Nyangwa Boys High School in Embu County, three classrooms and a dormitory are under construction to cater for the huge number of students expected to join the school. Should all the 550 Form One students report, the school will be taught in 11 streams, up from seven. The dormitory is being funded by the Constituency Development Fund.
"We have been given more students by the government and if they all report, we shall have four extra streams," the school principal Timothy Nyaga said.
Meru School, a national school, will admit 550 new students, 100 more than the number admitted last year. The principal, Mr Kiwara Kariuki, said the school will upgrade to 10 streams starting this academic year.
When the Nation visited the school, the construction of 15 more classrooms was in top gear, with the contractor expected to complete works by the end of the month.
"We received 450 students but due to high demand, we are receiving 100 more students to help in achieving the 100 per cent transition. The 15 new classrooms are partly funded by government infrastructure allocation and contributions from parents," Mr Kariuki said, adding that the enrolment will be about 1,800 students next term.
Mr Jacob Mbogo, the Kenya Secondary School Heads Association chairman, Migori Branch, who is also the Kanyawanga High School principal, urged the government to urgently hire more teachers.
Reporting by Winnie Atieno, Angeline Onyango, Benson Amadala, Ian Byron, George Odiwuor, Vitalis Kimutai, Shaban Makokha, Derick Luvega, Benson Ayienda, George Munene, David Muchui, Mwangi Muiruri, Tom Matoke, Florah Koech and Sammy Lutta