April 20, 2019

Of students with 400+ marks missing top schools and the muddle that is the education ministry

Education Cabinet Secretary Prof. Kaimenyi at the commencement ceremony of form one selection

There are two ministries in Kenya which never cease to be in a constant state of confusion and whose solutions always seem to create more problems; the Ministry of land and the Ministry of Education. Together with the respective commissions under them, it is always hard to make the head or tail over any matter and despite the gusto and self-assuredness the respective cabinet secretaries portray. Focus for a moment the Ministry of Education.

The year started with teachers’ strike which was ended after negotiations overseen by the Industrial Court and as soon as the teachers were back in class the TSC reneged on their part of the negotiations, since that is a story that is still unfolding, let’s look at the running theme since December, national examinations results and ranking and distribution of Form one places.

First, the ministry did away with the ranking of schools and students saying it was unfair and created unhealthy competition. Then came the criteria of allocation of the form one places in the country. The issue at hand is the government’s choice to award 78% of the national schools’ position to pupils from public schools with the paltry 22% going to private schools.

Kenya Private Schools Association members with their lawyer objecting to the quota system
Kenya Private Schools Association members with their lawyer objecting to the quota system

What this basically means is that hundreds of students from private schools with marks qualifying them to join national schools will not join their schools of choice, a move which has faced protests from several stakeholders. The process comes to an end tomorrow and there are issues arising already given the that students with pretty low marks as much as 200’s joining national schools and those with 400 and above missing out even from the said public schools which were to be beneficiaries.

Firstly, the number of private schools coming up all over the country does not indicate a growth in rich households but rather a number of parents who have lost hope in the public educational center and sacrifice the little they have to give their children a fair chance in life through quality education. There are private schools in low income housing estates and even in the rural areas. Denying the children and their parents a chance for what they have achieved is punishing an individual’s effort for self-betterment just to reward government incompetence.

Secondly, the ministry assumes all public schools are equal which is totally wrong. There are elite public primary schools like Nairobi Primary and you cannot compare these to those available in slums and marginalized areas yet they are to share the 78% equally thus it is obvious who will benefit more negating the objective of the quota system.

Thirdly, the quota system as the ranking issue earlier is not a solution but rather a white wash measure to be seen acting in the interest of the marginalized and under privileged. This is why, by ensuring a couple of students say even 100 from the marginalized areas around Kenya can get quality education how does that change the fortunes of the thousands of others who are left to make do with even poorer and fewer secondary institutions in their areas? In the other areas it means competition for the county schools and county extra schools which are there to absorb the average performing students thus locking out a majority of the public schools students, not from national schools but from secondary school education.

Free primary and secondary education was and is still a better way to ensure there are more schools which are equipped to a required standard to cater for the education needs of the country. All these other solutions are just attempts to portray action on the government part that end up punishing many innocent individuals without addressing the real issue. For now, the circus at the ministry continues.

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