The success of an ambitious government plan to have all those who sat the primary exams join Form One depends on the employment of thousands of new teachers.
Teachers Service Commission (TSC) says 70,000 new teachers need to be hired immediately to ensure the quality of education is not affected as student numbers in secondary schools surge from 2.79 million to 3.2 million next year.
Last year, the government recruited 8,700 teachers to support the 100 percent transition. The number was 3,300 heads short of the 12,626 new teachers TSC says should be recruited annually until 2020 at a cost of Sh8.3 billion to ensure quality learning.
In addition, TSC says there has been a backlog over time in recruitment of some 57,380 others.
“We hope the National Treasury will continue giving our proposal the necessary attention,” TSC Chief Executive Officer Nancy Macharia said.
Going by the TSC estimate for recruiting the annual quota of new teachers, the government needs an additional Sh46 billion to implement the TSC proposal at a go.
With the number of secondary school teachers now at 80,000, the increased population would reduce the average teacher student ratio to 1:40 next year from 1:35 this year.
Although this is at par with the ratio recommended by Unesco, some national schools that are in high demand have ratios ranging between 1:50 and 1:70 in order to make maximum use of available teachers and facilities.
Mrs Macharia asked teachers to be innovative to ensure that they do not compromise standards of teaching and learning.
The concerns over the teaching force come as the selection of 128,838 students who will join extra county schools was done across 10 centres in the country.
Just like after the selection for national schools, many students were disappointed after missing out on their schools of choice.
Some of them petitioned the government to review the selection criteria to enable them join their dream schools.
Students are allowed to select nine schools — four national, two extra-county, two county and one sub-county — but few are admitted to the ones they chose once they miss their first choice.
Students said their choice is based on the secondary school's performance, discipline, all-round facilities, unique courses offered and, in some cases, proximity to their homes.
Of those who missed their schools of choice, Justin Kirui, who scored 413 marks, said his dream to pursue aviation at Mang’u High School was now in abeyance after he was admitted to Chewoyet High school in West Pokot.
Lynette Wambui, who scored 409 marks, was posted to Mbooni Girls in Machakos County instead of Kenya High in Nairobi.
“I went for Kenya High School as my first choice because of the good performance,” she said, adding that her parents would help her decide whether to join it.
Peer pressure also appeared at play with some candidates aggrieved that those who scored fewer marks were admitted to better schools.
Such was the case of Faith Nyawira Nyaga who was selected to join Kathiani Girls’ High School instead of Kenya High.
“I felt bad because my friends are going to better schools of their choice.” Faith, who scored 408 marks, said one of her friends had been admitted to Kabare Girls with 399 marks.
Also going to Kathiani, instead of Kenya High, is Terry Tamara Mbala, who scored 418 marks.
There were also clear cases of mismatch such as that of Purity Kipkemoi who scored 361 marks and was invited to join St Lucy High School for the visually impaired in Meru County despite being of normal sight.
One guardian took to social media to protest the failure of a girl who scored 385 marks to get a national or extra-county school.
She is now likely to be admitted into a sub-county school in the last phase of selection today.
In another twist, 50 candidates from Soin-Sigowet Sub-County who scored more than 400 marks missed places in national schools despite the government saying the top five boys and girls from each sub-county would be placed there.
“We do not have a single candidate who has been selected to join a national school, not even those with over 430 marks,” Stanley Maritim, a representative of private schools in the sub-county, said.
The selection of 870,533 students to join county and sub-county schools starts today and will end tomorrow.