Learning in secondary schools across the country is headed for a crisis as the institutions grapple with overstretched facilities and shortage of teachers in the wake of increased admission of Form One students.
The runaway congestion, which has seen some students learning in tents while some schools create extra classrooms in dining halls and dispensaries, has brought a logistical nightmare to institution managers and put to the test the quality of education.
On Wednesday, head teachers raised the alarm, warning the situation was “getting desperate” and called for urgent government intervention before the crisis “disrupts learning”.
A task force report on school unrest released last year recommended that congestion in schools needed to be addressed.
And that was before the onset of free day secondary school implemented last month as a fulfilment of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s campaign promises.
Already, 794,366 candidates out of the 993,718 who sat the KCPE examination last year have taken up their slots in secondary schools.
A nationwide survey conducted by the Sunday Nation established that some secondary schools had as many as 90 students in one classroom, double the recommended class size of 45 students.
The survey also found that some of secondary schools had resorted to makeshift classrooms and dormitories to accommodate the huge number of students.
St Peter’s High School, an extra county school in Kakamega County, had, for instance, converted the dispensary into a dormitory while at Meru School, the administration was struggling to raise funds to build 80 more latrines and bathrooms to cater for the huge number of students.
At Chavakali High School in Vihiga County, teachers are forced to serve students’ meals in time-consuming shifts because the dining hall cannot accommodate the entire student population of 1,825.
The hall had been designed to accommodate 600 students, according to the principal John Kiura.
“Some schools have streams with up to 60 students against the recommended 45, hampering effective teaching in an expanded classroom,” Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) chairman Kahi Indimuli told the lobby’s governing council meeting in Nairobi on Wednesday.
Mr Indimuli said some schools’ move to create extra streams to accommodate the learners was not solving the whole problem as it only made the teacher shortage more acute.
Mr Indimuli welcomed the Teachers Service Commission’s assurance that it had written to the National Treasury to release funds for employment of more teachers to ease the burden caused by increased enrolment, but warned more needed to be done.
“The Ministry of Education has started sending money to schools to construct more classrooms.
"Already, some have received between Sh1 million and Sh2 million to start construction,” he said.
Mr Indimuli warned that schools without land will be forced to raise funds to acquire it, a move that is likely to put the managers on a collision course with the government, which has asked parents not pay extra levies.
Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang said the ministry is awaiting for a report on the Form One admission next week before deciding on the measures to take.
“I will comment on the issue once I get the report,” he said in response to our enquiries.
Principals in Kakamega and Vihiga counties, who spoke to the Sunday Nation, complained that teachers were being overworked while resources had been overstretched as a result of the congestion crisis.
Mr Cosmas Nabungolo, the Principal of St Peter’s High School in Mumias, said they had admitted 466 students in Form One, well above the school’s capacity of 380.
“We were allocated 380 slots by the government but the demand is overwhelming. We cannot send away students because they all have a right to access education,” Mr Nabungolo said, highlighting the dilemma head teachers across the country face.
He said the board of management had been forced to convert the dispensary into a dormitory to accommodate the new admissions.
The situation was not different at Mwira Secondary School in neighbouring Matungu where the principal, Mr Constantine Wanyonyi, said they had admitted 211 Form One students, well above the school’s capacity of 135.
Itete Secondary is the worst hit by the congestion.
The school in Kakamega County has three streams for every class, with each Form One stream holding 99 students.
The principal, Mr Silvester Ashoya, said the school’s student population is 946 against 12 teachers.
“We have been forced to divert money that would have been used on other needs to hire teachers to address the shortage. Infrastructure is a major challenge too,” Mr Ashoya said.
Kakamega School admitted 500 Form One students this year against a capacity of 420.
At Butere Girls, a national school, the principal, Ms Janet Omondi, said the high enrolment will affect performance, owing to overstretched facilities and shortage of teachers.
“We admitted 470 students in Form One against the capacity of 420 but we are doing our best to cope with the situation,” she said.
In Mombasa, Shimo La Tewa School has admitted 450 Form One students, but was allocated 380 slots.
Principal Mathew Mutiso said the number had been increased due to government policy to ensure 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary.
Mr Mutiso told parents during a Form One meeting on Friday that some laboratories had been converted into classrooms to cater for the increased numbers.
At Kisii School, classes and dormitories are overstretched to the limits.
At Sameta High School, also in Kisii County, the administration has converted the agriculture laboratory into a dormitory.
A workshop at the school also gave way to an office as the school sought space for expansion.
Many dormitories at the school, which ordinarily accommodate 45 students each, are now congested with an average of 66 students.
Admissions at Sironga, Nyabururu and Ichuni Girls secondary schools in Kisii and Nyamira counties have also doubled, straining the school facilities.
In some schools, students queue for long to take a bath or relieve themselves in the few toilets available at the schools, teachers said.
At Nyabisase Mixed Secondary School in Kisii, for instance, the enrolment jumped from 600 students to 1,200 in less than six months.
Mr David Ogega, the school principal, said the tuition blocks are bursting at the seams.
And at Nyamagwa Girls’ Secondary School, also in Kisii County, some students are forced to learn under tents.
At Gionseri Girls, Form One students are studying in makeshift structures purposely set up to meet the needs of increased admissions.
The school’s principal, Ms Debra Osoro, said they had to setup three more makeshift dormitories to accommodate the new students.
In Meru School, the principal, Mr Silas Mwirigi, said they have been forced to squeeze in more beds into dormitories to accommodate the high number of students.
The school has also been forced to create space for classrooms in the multipurpose hall, dining hall and science laboratory.
This was going on even as a dormitory that was under construction to ease congestion stalled following the government’s directive that parents should not pay extra levies.
“We need about Sh10 million to complete the storeyed dormitory and ease congestion,” Mr Mwirigi said.
Mr Mwirigi estimated that the school will require a development allocation of at least Sh25 million every year for four years to ensure adequate facilities.
This was supported by South Imenti MP Kathuri Murungi who added that the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) couldn’t cope with the population explosion in schools.
“St Mary’s Girls’ High School needs four new classrooms to cater for the growing population of students.
"The CDF cannot manage to support the school to put up more classrooms and dormitories. The national government needs to release development funds to the schools,” Mr Murungi said.
Kagumo Boys’ High School in Nyeri County has been forced to increase its streams from six to seven to accommodate an additional 50 students admitted to the school this year.
The principal, Lawrence Kiwara, said the school was forced to convert a store into a dormitory.
“The boys are so far comfortable given that we have two dining halls but as we admit more students, we may be forced to switch to the cafeteria system,” he noted.
Some schools in Makueni County have recorded more than 300 per cent increase in Form One enrolment.
The opening up of the school to girls, and the introduction of a day wing at Johanna Chase Secondary School in Mtito Andei has seen the school enrolment shoot up from 45 last year to 160 this term.
The introduction of a day wing at Kivuthini Secondary School has also seen the enrolment grow from 22 Form One students last year to 156 this year.
At Makueni Boys’ High School, the biggest school in the county, teachers are struggling to teach the 290 Form One students spread in five streams, each holding an average of 55 students.
According to the principal, Mr Raphael Diwani, the school expected to enrol 240 Form Ones, but was forced to admit 50 more.
“We are working on a sixth stream and a library to ease pressure on available classrooms,” Mr Diwani told the Sunday Nation.
The situation is not different at Mukaa Boys’ High School that saw its population rise to 1,300 this year following the admission of 360 Form One students last month.
The school head, Mr Francis Mutua, said accommodation is the school’s biggest problem.
FORM ONE STREAMS
At Nakuru Girls’ High School, a classroom holds an average of 58 students instead of the recommended 45.
The school principal, Ms Christine Chumba, said the national school admitted 284 Form One students against a capacity of 220.
Many other institutions, including Naivasha Girls, Molo Academy, Njoro Boys and Jomo Kenyatta High, have also increased streams.
On Thursday, the Parliamentary Education Committee chaired by Tinderet MP Julius Melly also put the government to task over free day secondary education.
Reporting by Ouma Wanzala, Eric Matara, Pius Maundu, Mumbi Gitau, David Muchui, Mwangi Ndirangu, Charles Wanyoro, David Muchui, Magati Obebo, Derick Luvega, Shaban Makokha, Eunice Murathe and Benson Amadala.