Teachers say lack of cash may hurt Form 1 enrolment

Sunday February 3 2013

The national chairman of the Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association chairman Mr John Awiti. The association has warned of a looming crisis if the government does not release money for free education even as Form One selection starts on Monday.

The national chairman of the Kenya Secondary schools heads association chairman Mr John Awiti. The association has warned of a looming crisis if the government does not release money for free education even as Form One selection starts on Monday. NATION

By AGGREY MUTAMBO [email protected] and KENFREY KIBERENGE [email protected]

Secondary school head teachers have warned of a looming crisis if the government does not release money for free education even as Form One selection starts on Monday.

The admission of new students to public secondary schools begins in two weeks but teachers say they have no money to run the institutions.

Education minister Mutula Kilonzo is expected to launch the Form One selection drive tomorrow at the Kenya Institute of Education.

But Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association chairman John Awiti said on Saturday that teachers were worried that the delay in releasing the funds would affect admission of Form One students.

“We have not received any money yet we expect to admit more students. Teachers are worried,” he told the Sunday Nation on the phone.

Mr Awiti, the principal of St Mary’s Yala, said the money should be released before admission of new students begins.

The free education programme is supposed to cost Sh14 billion, Sh9 billion of which goes to secondary schools.

The Kenya National Union of Teachers supported the school heads and asked the government to disburse the money.

“Our demand remains the same. All money for free schooling should be released,” said Knut chairman Wilson Sossion.

“Indeed, the government should tell us whether it is giving up on the programme because delaying disbursement is as good as condemning public education. Right now everyone is too busy with politics, and we wonder who will help our children.”

But Education permanent secretary Prof George Godia told the Sunday Nation yesterday that the money would be released before Form One admission starts.

“There is no crisis in schools,” he said. “In fact, schools are beginning this year without any debts. Unless they have mismanaged the money we sent them last year, there should be no cause for alarm.”

But even as the head teachers grapple with the expected enrolment, the new selection formula announced by the Education ministry has been received with mixed feelings.

Private schools being the biggest beneficiaries this time in the scramble for national school slots, welcomed the formula.

New formula

The government has dropped the quota system used in the last two years, which favoured public school candidates. The new formula automatically affords the top two girls and boys in each district places in national schools.

Kenya Private Schools Association chief executive Peter Ndoro praised it saying it seeks to reward merit.

“Merit will be the key factor in this year’s Form One selection,” he said.

But the Kenya National Association of Parents dismissed the formula as complicated and called for a review.

Secretary-general Musau Ndunda said the focus should not just be on the top students.

“I have been in touch with the team that has been conducting the exercise and I am lost. It is too complicated,” Mr Ndunda said.

He said the new formula would give an undue advantage to private schools, some of which he accused of employing dubious means to post good results.

Knap claims that private schools register their top performers in satellite exam centres and has petitioned the government to investigate the claims.

“Private schools are still registering their best students in different schools and the Kenya National Examinations Council has refused to act,” Mr Ndunda said.

Mr Ndoro promised to work with the ministry and Knec to audit the registration done in 2012 and take action on cheats.

“I can promise you that with the ministry structures it will be very easy to weed out such schools and they will be dealt with according to the law,” he said.

The Daily Nation reported last Wednesday that the virtually all of the more than 1,000 places reserved for four top performers in each district are likely to go to candidates from private schools. The academies produced most of the top candidates.

In addition to the places reserved for districts, about 6,000 will join national schools under the rule that favours candidates from public institutions.

But a November 2, 2012 circular released by Education permanent secretary George Godia said quotas between private and public schools would still be upheld.

But Mr Ndunda said all candidates who scored more than 400 marks should be admitted at the schools of their choice.

“There are about 3,000 candidates who scored more than 400 marks yet there are over 6,000 slots in national schools,” he said.

The remaining slots should then be shared proportionally based on the number of candidates in public and private schools, he added.

The selection process has been computerised making it faster. Secondary school heads will get the list of their new Form One students moments after the Education minister launches the selection drive at the Kenya Institute of Education headquarters in Nairobi.

Exclusive selection

Monday’s selection will be for national schools but the exercise for county and district schools is expected to start almost immediately.

Parents can check the schools their children have been admitted to by sending the candidate’s KCPE index number to the short code 4042.

The government will, however, have a hard time convincing some parents to honour admissions to some of the newly elevated national schools which have in the past been dismissed as unworthy.

There are 78 national schools from 18 in 2009. But some parents have previously refused to take their children to some of the national schools, instead preferring county schools, previously known as provincial schools.

Two weeks ago Knap wrote a protest letter to Education minister Mutula Kilonzo listing several institutions the organisation felt did not deserve the national school status.

“The government needs to have a marshal plan to make these schools more attractive,”

Mr Ndunda said, adding that the elevation of some of the schools was politically motivated.

“Some don’t even deserve the county school status,” he said.