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Noreen Wagwama (centre) in a company of Alber School Pupils

This is Why Junior Secondary Schools are Congested

Majority of public Junior Secondary Schools (JSS) are struggling with an influx of large numbers of learners owing to infrastructural strain in some schools and high fees charged by private institutions. The latter has compelled many parents to withdraw their children from private schools in preference of public ones. Kenya Primary Schools Heads Association (Kepsha) chairman Johnston Nzioka yesterday said that some schools, especially in urban areas with more private than public schools, had to admit more learners than their capacity allowed. This is because there were schools that failed to meet the JSS hosting threshold when the Ministry conducted a second evaluation in January.

This has also contributed to congestion in the approved schools. “In terms of classrooms, we are not so badly off; remember these were the children who were to occupy classrooms left by Standard Eight,” said Nzioka. “However, there are some schools that realised an influx because some of the private schools were not approved to host junior secondary. The children have thus moved to public schools.” Ideal classroom He said there was a need for extra classrooms to accommodate the extra students. According to him, some classes that had 100 students have seen the number rise to 150.

An ideal classroom should have between 15 and 40 learners for optimal learning. Large numbers of learners in affected public schools, therefore mean there is a need for additional classrooms. He urged the government to identify schools whose population had grown significantly with a view to building extra classrooms as part of the strategy to ensure 100 per cent transition to JSS as the government promised last year. Nzioka also regretted that the government was yet to disburse JSS capitation, and this is further straining schools’ operations as they have to incur expenses before receiving funding. He urged the government not to wait for records from the National Education Management Information System (NEMIS) because the Ministry of Education already has records of learners who sat the Kenya Primary School Education Assessment (KPSEA) examinations. These can be used to disburse the first tranche of funds. “For a start, we should go with that,” he said.

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School heads had been promised that they would receive the first tranche of funding for infrastructure by the time the term started. The money was to be used to equip or build laboratories and other infrastructure, such as home science rooms. However, the money was yet to reach the schools’ bank accounts by Friday last week. “We are still expecting the money to be wired to the school accounts for that to be established. We need the day-to-day expenses to be taken care of,” the official said.

National Parents Association (NPA) chairman Silas Obuhatsa said there was a need for additional infrastructure in schools but called for patience to avoid putting up substandard buildings. “We know that these cannot be built in one day; it will take some time. For now, we know there are children who have come from other schools that did not have JSS. We did not expect such a situation but since it has happened, we should understand that the government did not have any other way at that moment,” he said.

He also urged parents to give the Ministry of Education and the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) time to resolve some of the teething problems that Junior Secondary Schools are experiencing. At the same time, Obuhatsa criticised school managers charging extra levies. He challenged the Ministry to bring such individuals to book. Schools are not expected to charge fees and levies for JSS learners. However, in some schools, headteachers have ignored the government’s directive and have been demanding levies, especially in schools with an influx of new learners. Obuhatsa challenged head-teachers to stick to the guidelines from the Ministry on the issues of school fees and uniform.

“The Ministry was clear that admissions should go on, school managers and boards of management should sit together and agree on the issue of uniform. We do not expect parents to be exploited,” he said. Last week, Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang said no school should issue alternative fees structures or introduce levies other than those approved by the Ministry.

Despite the directive, the Education Ministry continues to receive complaints from aggrieved parents on unauthorised levies imposed by headteachers, especially in the form of admission fees, payment for purchase of desks and lunch money. “The Ministry has recently released guidelines for the implementation of JSS. At the same time, the government has allocated a capitation grant of Sh15,000 per child,” said the PS in a recent circular to Regional, County and Sub County Directors of Education. “You are directed to ensure that no public school charges unauthorised levies such as admission fees, desks and lunch unless the school has a previous authorised lunch programme for the whole school”.

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