Enrolment of pupils in public primary schools in Nyeri County has decreased by 16 per cent in the last six years.
Stakeholders and experts say family planning and migration to urban centres are some of the key reasons for the decline.
The county had 112,607 pupils in primary schools in 2014, but the number dropped to 96,706 in 2018.
Some of the schools the Nation visited in Tetu, Mathira and Mukurwe-ini sub-counties had a few pupils as most classrooms remained empty, with most schools having less than 200 learners.
Kihingo Primary School had the lowest number of pupils at 61, followed by Wandumbi Primary School, which had 72. Nyaithee Primary School had 104 pupils, about 15 per class.
The school has eight teachers making the pupil to teacher ratio 13:1. The recommended ratio is 40:1. Gondo Primary School had a total of 91 pupils, while Ngooru Primary School had 79, down from 91 in 2015.
Mr Jared Obiero, the County Director of Education, acknowledged the poor enrolment, saying there were more pupils in upper classes than in lower ones. “In 2018, there were 14,551 Class Eight pupils, while only 10,980 enrolled in Class One,” he said.
Mr Obiero attributed the trend to widespread adoption of birth control methods that reduce fertility.
The contraceptive prevalence rate among married women of the reproductive age rose from 53 per cent in 2014 to 61 per cent last year, according to Ministry of Health data.
“There was a sustained campaign on the use of contraceptives and it seems that the methods were embraced. Most families have a maximum of three children, while previously they had seven and above,” he said.
He also noted that many young people had moved to major towns in search of jobs, leaving behind older people who are past the productive age.
“They have taken along their families, while the few who are left behind do not have families, hence the reduced number of pupils in primary schools,” he said.
Mr Obiero said that private schools also record low enrolment. “We cannot say that the children are in private schools because even those have low enrolment,” he said.
He urged young people living in urban centres to return home and develop rural areas.
County Knut executive secretary Zachary Mathenge said the decrease in the number of pupils enrolling in primary schools is not fuelled by performance of schools in national exams.
He appealed to churches and workers’ unions to help resolve the matter. “We cannot blame it on the performance of the schools. There are no children. Very few schools have more than 300 pupils. My appeal is to the churches and unions to talk to young people. Encourage them to grow the population,” Mr Mathenge said.
A teacher, who requested anonymity, because she is not authorised to speak for schools, said that some did not have enough pupils to register for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams.
“Some of these schools have less than 10 candidates in a class and may have to merge with others to get a quorum (to register as exam centres). It’s sad that almost all schools have blocks of empty classes that could house three other schools,” she said.
For instance, Kihingo, Wandumbi and Nyaithe primary schools — identified above as having a handful of pupils — have capacity for 320 pupils each.
The three schools are in Tetu constituency where the number of pupils in public primary schools dropped from 10,035 in 2016 to 9,700 in 2018.