After a long and tortuous drive, we reach Pokotom School in Turkana. From the gate, one gets the impression that this is one school but once inside, you realise it has the Early Childhood Development (ECD) section, the primary and the secondary wings, all in one place.
The ECD pupils are in civilian clothes while those in the primary section don yellow tops and green shorts or tunics. Their counterparts in the secondary section are dressed in light-green blouses and shirts and blue trousers or skirts with navy-blue ties.
One can easily count the number of students wearing shoes as the majority are in flip-flops or barefoot.
It is Wednesday morning and normally, one would expect the students to be in their respective classes; but they are not.
They are seated outside in the scorching sun, with the temperatures hovering around the 36 degrees Celsius mark.
At the school, both the primary and secondary sections share teachers. The head teacher, David Namoru Perkan, runs both wings.
The school has 1,600 students – 500 girls and 1,100 boys.
The initial structure was for a primary school. However, the thirst for secondary education after Standard Eight forced the school’s management to create space for the secondary wing.
The first batch of Form Ones reported in February 2018. It is the only public secondary school in Turkana West region, with the others within the Kakuma Refugee Camp.
"We agreed that although in this region education is not always taken seriously, if one needs it that badly, why not? We also support those who cannot afford school fees," says Mr Namoru.
The Form Ones were allocated two classrooms in the compound. One is allocated to the early childhood pupils, forcing the primary school pupils to squeeze into the remaining classrooms.
The majority of the teachers in the three wings are paid by the board of management and the others by NGOs. Some teachers in the nearby primary schools volunteer their services for free.
At Pokotom, students have no books, no laboratories and no electricity, yet they compete with some of the best schools in the country.
Nakata Jemator, a Form Two student at the school, said she sat for her Class Eight exams in 2016 and stayed at home for a year before joining Form One last year.
While she has attended several chemistry lessons, she has no idea what a laboratory is.
The school has only four chemistry textbooks, shared by over 300 students in Forms One and Two.
Ms Jemator, who aspires to be a doctor, might not be able to realise her dream, not because she is not bright, but she does not have the requisite tools for gaining knowledge.
BEST IN COUNTY
"I did not want to stay home and be married off. I also want to work hard and become a doctor, though it has not been easy," says the shy Jemator.
She walks three kilometres to school every morning. She cannot, however, attend evening classes because there is no electricity at the school.
A majority of the students sit on the floor since desks are few. The available classrooms are so packed that teachers can hardly move around to attend to individual learners.
The teachers employed by the board live in mud-walled houses within the school, while the others are volunteers drawn from nearby primary schools.
"We have a teacher from a nearby primary school who comes to help our secondary students. He teaches them Christian Religious Education and History," Mr Namoru reveals.
The few latrines available are shared by both teachers and pupils, from the ECDE wing to the secondary section.
"Despite all the difficulties, we were the best in the county in last year’s KCPE examination because we give the pupils the best and consider this a calling," says Mr Namoru. The school registered 51 candidates, with the best scoring 408 marks and the last 261 marks. It posted a mean score of 331 marks.
He attributes the high number of pupils and students at the school to the government policy of 100 per cent enrolment in primary school and transition to secondary education.
World Vision Kenya, an NGO with an office in the region, has since stepped in to build and equip two classrooms in the secondary wing.
“From the numbers, we can tell that the young minds need education but they do not have the facilities and learning materials. We did a vulnerability survey and it emerged as one of those schools that are in need," says Mr Anthony Oyugi, the NGO’s Education and Child Protection expert.
Turkana West district education officer Ambrose Waswa is confident that with better facilities, the learners can perform much better.
“This is the only day secondary school in this region,” he says.