The decision by the Ministry of Education to allow pupils from private schools to be admitted to national schools on merit could defeat the purpose of affirmative action.
Some education stakeholders say that some counties may end up taking up coveted positions in top schools.
Education ministry officials involved in the selection exercise acknowledged that students from private schools had taken up a large portion of slots in the 103 national schools.
It is, however, a big relief for private schools whose struggle with the ministry has paid off.
“We are happy with the whole process so far and glad that the new Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i is able to listen to our concerns and we will continue to engage him where we feel there are problems,” said Kenya Private Schools Association Chairman Ernest Wangai.
However, he said that the association can only provide information once they have analysed the data to determine how many of their students joined national schools.
Affirmative action was designed to ensure that minorities and marginalised groups are provided with special opportunities in education.
But Kenya National Association of Parents and Teachers Chairman Nathan Barasa accused the ministry of giving in to the demands of private schools.
“We do not understand why the Ministry of Education is fearing the private schools to an extent that they are dictating to them what to do,” said Mr Barasa.
“What happens to the recommendations that a taskforce developed in October that were supposed to guide the selection exercise,” he said.
Mr Barasa said some counties may get more students to national schools at the expense of pupils in counties that are in hardship areas.
Elimu Yetu Coalition Coordinator Janet Muthoni concurs that counties with good schools and infrastructure will have more slots in national schools.
However, she supports the process saying that merit and equity should be rewarded in the selection process.
“We cannot have a process that satisfies everybody,” said the coordinator, asking the government to equip all schools and provide enough teachers to avoid the annual scramble for national schools.
The selection guidelines were to ensure that there is proportionate sharing of national and extra-county school places between public and private school candidates in every sub-county, based on the number of candidates who sat the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examinations.
They were also to ensure that candidates are placed in schools of their choice based on merit and that there is guaranteed equity in school placement through quotas and affirmative action where applicable.
Quotas for each sub-county in a given school were computed based on the sub-county’s candidature strength to determine its allocation.
According to the guidelines, when a sub-county misses a slot due to low candidature, affirmative action would be applied.
Meanwhile, Secondary and Tertiary Education Director Robert Masese said that there is a concentration of schools in some areas with some region being net exporters of students.
He cited Nairobi County which he said is facing a shortage of schools as it had a deficit of 24,500 places, meaning that it requires new 544 streams.
“We have enough schools in some regions and what we need now is to expand them instead of starting new ones,” said the director.
Speaking during the launch of the Form One selection in Nairobi last Thursday, Dr Matiang’i said the ministry is committed to improving infrastructure in the newly upgraded schools to comparable levels with the more established national schools. He also supported an expansion of the outstanding extra-county schools,” said the CS.
He challenged schools’ boards of management to utilise the infrastructure funds prudently as detailed in their school infrastructure development plans in order to address the challenge of access to secondary education.
The minister added that the moratorium on registration of new schools is still in force and will be lifted once revised guidelines on school registration are finalised.
“Any exceptional need for registration of news schools shall be addressed by the County Education Boards with my concurrence,” he said.
Dr Matiang’i said education stakeholders should focus on expansion and improvement of existing schools until all of them have attained a minimum of three streams – the level at which optimal utilisation of resources including teaching staff is attained.