Primary school in Kenya is referred to as grades 1-8 (Class one through eight) and Secondary school is high school with grades 9-12 (Form one through four). The transition to Secondary school or high school is determined by the total score a candidate obtains in the National examinations done at class 8, KCPE, Kenya Certificate of Primary Education. In Texas, the equivalent would the the TAKS Test, where it’s a standardized exam to score students based on their level of understanding.
Secondary School/High School Background
The Government introduced “Free” Secondary Education in January 2008 under a program named Free Day Secondary Education. Through the initiative the Government hoped to achieve Education for all by 2015 in line with the Millennium Development Goals. The Government aims to develop a literate population which is key to the overall development of the nation.
Specifically, this program was initiated in order to promote pupil transition from primary to secondary schools, retention and completion in secondary schools without discrimination.
Through the program, the Government intends to remove major obstacles that have stood in the way of children who need to join and complete secondary education. The hardest hit groups by financial related obstacles have been children in urban slums, rural areas and the arid and semi-arid regions.
The program involves provision of government subsidy on tuition fees, teaching and learning materials for all secondary school students in public schools. Unlike Free Primary Education, it currently does not include funding for infrastructural development projects.
Beginning January 2008, the Government set aside Kshs. 10,265 per annum for each student in public secondary school. Besides funding tuition, teaching and learning materials, the Government also meets the cost of salaries for teachers under the Teachers Service Commission and wages for non-teaching staff, as well as expenses of co-curricular activities.
Free Day Secondary Education promotes joint responsibilities between parents, the Government and sponsors of schools (some schools are sponsored by organizations especially churches). Its implication is central to the national goal of poverty reduction, therefore calling for the spirit of partnership between the government, parents and other stakeholders. As the State meets the costs of items designated under this programme, parents or guardians are still required to meet the following costs:
• Examination fees for form four examination (KCSE) which is an average of KES 5,500 per candidate.
• School meals even for day-scholars
• School uniforms
• Boarding fees at Kshs. 18,627 per annum (about 200 USD)
• Transport to and from school
• Infrastructural development, including building and construction
• Any teachers employed by the School board
As a result the payments greatly vary from school to school based on variables such as type of meals offered, type of boarding facilities, co- curricular activities allowed by the school, discipline enforced in terms of what items are students allowed to come with into the school and distances from home to school.
In the urban slums, arid and semi-arid areas, the Government continues to supplement efforts by patents in managing low-cost boarding schools and the school-feeding program through a project called ‘food for schools’. Public secondary schools are expected to enroll pupils who have qualified after primary examinations without discrimination.
Challenges facing Free Secondary Education at the moment:
1. Free Day Secondary Education lacks a specific and clear policy and legislative framework, which has made it remain a political declaration and many of its activities reactive.
2. Some schools are still overcharging parents by asking for more than the approved boarding fees in the Ministry guidelines, yet the Ministry does not seem keen to take action to stop this.
3. The shortage of teachers in schools is causing heavy workloads for the limited human resources. There has been a sharp rise in enrollment as a result of the program being implemented, putting a strain on the few teachers in schools who continue to threaten that the amount of workload versus their pay are not matching and always ready to slow down children learning through strikes.
4. Lack of adequate school facilities to serve the needs of both students and the teachers due to the sharp increase in enrolment of students.
5. Lack personalized attention for slow learners due to crowded classes.
6. Inadequate funds sent to schools coupled with stiff rules of expenditure that fail to appreciate the unique needs of some of the schools. All schools are allocated that same amount despite their Geographical and other unique needs they face.
7. The requirement for schools to have enrollment of at least forty students has led to submission of non-existent (ghost) student lists to the Ministry headquarters by some schools. According to the Ministry guidelines, schools with low enrollment would have to be merged so that they can benefit from the kit. However, schools in arid and semi-arid areas were spared this requirement.
8. Due to the high demand for places in well performing schools, parallel classes have been established for the fee paying students. Out of desperation parents accept the same offer (It is a silent practice but with a threat to becoming like public Hospitals that operate a private wing within the same facilities as long as you can afford it).
9. No specific budget allocation has been made for disabled children with special needs. Considering that under the Children’s Act (2001), it is a human right that every child must enjoy education and has to be protected by law.
10. A number of schools have not engaged bursars leaving the head teacher as the accounting officer. This has opened the fund to mismanagement and corruption.
11. There are no transparent procurement guidelines for schools. Often teachers end up as suppliers fuelling conflict of interest in the management of funds.