Address crowding in our public schools to improve education

Friday September 15 2017

A teenage girl who lives in my house is precocious. She took her studies seriously and foresaw herself in the category of neurosurgeons that is popular among the top performers the 8-4-4 churns out year in, year out.

We were ecstatic when she got admission to a good national school in Nairobi, the kind that many a parent dreams of. The jubilation, however, lasted for only one term. We are not the squeamish type who cringe over a little bit of harsh experiences. We are aware that success comes at a price. But the price got too high.

Teaching a class of 60 does not result in quality education. And imagine there are six streams at the school!

According to the teenager, the teacher had to find some space near the door, from where he would conduct his lessons.

At 5pm, he would take his leave and brave the traffic jams to get home in time to supervise his children’s homework.

COUNSELLING

There isn’t any time left to perform his core duty of monitoring, guiding and counselling his charges.

I cannot describe the sleeping arrangements at a school with such a high enrolment since the authorities did not give permission  to parents wishing to see the dormitories. It does not take genius to decipher why.

Reports from the girl painted a horrifying picture of the situation at the dorms — crammed triple deck beds.

Just when I thought I had heard the worst, a friend of her mother narrated the conditions at another top public school in Murang’a County, where one class accommodates 93 students.

From these examples, it is clear that the situation in public schools is deplorable. Having classes packed with children like that is disastrous.

It is common knowledge that you will not find the children of influential figures and their kindred in public schools.

FREE EDUCATION

I am at a loss why universal free primary education is being touted as a deliverable in this season of madness. At the same time, our leaders are now promising free secondary education and one hundred per cent transition.

If the current situation can be described as deplorable, I wonder what will become of it once these grand promises come to fruition.

Without new classrooms and dormitories, more teachers, staff houses within school compounds and enough reading materials, the public education system is headed for total collapse.

It is worrying that politicians promise the electorate the impossible, with the citizens taking the pledges as the truth.

I am told that the situation in public universities is no better. I have seen the crowding, with cooking going on in halls of residence.

I have heard of drug abuse, prostitution, sex-for-marks scandals and crime at these institutions.

The young people in my house will not attend such institutions of shame if I can help it.

EVANS KINYUA,Nairobi.