A section of secondary schools are up in arms over the Form One selection criteria, which has seen pupils with as low as 212 marks join top schools.
The Sunday Nation has learnt that some extra-county schools (previously known as provincial schools) are protesting to the Education ministry over the calibre of some of the students posted there.
In the Nyanza region, for example, two extra-county schools have each received more than 30 students who scored way less than 250 out of the possible 500 marks in last year’s KCPE.
Most of the students, a source said, are from local public schools.
Even as Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang defended the move saying it would give learners from challenged backgrounds a chance to exploit their potential, grumbling was rife from some schools that students with scores below the average mark would slow down learning.
County schools and extra-county schools are the ones most affected by new selection criteria that Mr John Awiti, the secondary school heads’ association boss, termed as “historical” in terms of the lowest marks that have ever earned learners admission to some schools.
According to the Education ministry categorisation, extra-county schools select pupils from regions while county schools receive 60 per cent of students from the county and the rest from outside.
Some of the schools affected in Nairobi include Precious Blood Riruta, St George’s Girls, State House Girls and Moi Nairobi Girls schools.
Although the principals could not comment openly about their concerns, sources in the Education ministry said teachers and parents of students who did well in last year’s KCPE exams but were admitted to lowly day schools had raised concern.
In the selection done between January 25 and 26, national schools took 23,085 students; extra-county schools received 63,990 students; county schools got 123,435; sub-county schools took 481,318 and 66,351 went to private schools.
A document seen by the Sunday Nation reveals that a learner from a public school in Nairobi’s Embakasi district with 203 marks earned a spot in an extra-county secondary school alongside another from a private school in the same district with 396 marks.
In another case, a pupil with 211 marks from a school in Dagoretti district was selected to join an extra-county secondary school with another from a private school with 396 marks.
Westlands district had more than nine students selected who had scored below 250 marks.
Another pupil with 210 marks in Njiru district was in the same pool with another with 389 from a private school.
While some teachers and parents fault the Education ministry for favouring below-average students at the expense of better performing ones from private schools, Dr Kipsang said scoring low marks in KCPE may be due varied reasons.
“They scored low marks because of circumstances but once they join good schools, they are exposed and are able to realise their full potential,” said Dr Kipsang.
The difference between the students’ entry marks to top secondary schools may stir discontent among parents who may view the new selection process as a message that excelling in KCPE is no longer a reason to celebrate.
Moreover, some parents may no longer see the need to break their backs to have their children get a good primary education.
Long-time agitator for parents’ issues, Mr Musau Ndunda, however told Sunday Nation it is better to give students equal chances than to focus on those who excel.
He said it is a known fact that there is laxity among teachers in public schools, which may make learners in those schools not shine.
“I think that’s a good move because it’s going to enable those students to be given a level playground. These students should not be blamed. Actually, they should be encouraged so that in future they can also be somebody,” he said.
He gave an example of a student who scored 202 in 2008 KCPE but went ahead to score a B+ in KCSE.
GIVE THEM AN OPPORTUNITY
His sentiments were echoed by Mr Akelo Misori, the secretary-general of the Kenya Post-Primary Education Teachers.
“Students who have scored lower marks, depending on the circumstances under which the exam was administered, may not do poorly in secondary school even if they got 180 marks,” he said. “Judging the capacity of somebody on a one-stop kind of exam may not be objective.”
Mr Awiti confirmed that some schools had problems with the calibre of students being posted to institutions.
“They (school heads) found out that there are some areas where children with some low marks were given a chance and others were left out,” he said.
“I remember they sorted it out with Director of Secondary and Tertiary Education, Mr Robert Masese. The director gave an explanation of the formula that they are using; that it is quota system; that every sub-county gets their slots in the national and extra-county schools,” Mr Awiti added.
He explained that the situation presents principals with the challenge of levelling the factors that may have led to disparities in the scores of students admitted.
“When you take time and put them in a common environment, you will always find that after some time, after, say Form Two, Form Three when they will have covered enough ground, they do as well as any other,” he said.
Mr Awiti told secondary school teachers not to turn down students who had been admitted to their institutions.
“It is, to me, an opportunity for such children. Let them be given a chance to practice their education and I’m sure a good number of them are going to prove that it is only their school that maybe did not have better facilities to place them get the 400 marks also,” Mr Awiti noted.
So, is the new quota system for selecting Form Ones posing challenges? “The criteria which they used was good, although it is not yet perfect. But it was agreeable,” said Mr Misori.
However, Mr Awiti says that those who excel from private schools should not be left out unfairly.
Mr William Mwangi, the principal of Lenana School, said he was satisfied with the way admissions for secondary schools was done.
He was, however, concerned about the attention being given to quality in schools, warning that public secondary schools risk losing their appeal.
“If some of these schools are left that way, we are likely to find the primary schools scenario in secondary schools; where the schools are run down,” he said.