Parents are agonising over a new Form One admission policy that centralises school placement at the Education ministry headquarters.
High school principals can no longer admit any student, relegating them to mere receivers of lists provided by the ministry.
And the cost is heavy. Any student admitted at the school level will not receive fees subsidy that the government gives to all secondary school learners.
Each student is entitled to Sh22,244 from the Exchequer as part of the subsidised secondary education programme that has been in place since 2008. But that directive of denying a student government subsidy is contestable.
At the same time, parents have complained of unfair placement of candidates, many admitted to schools they never chose and far away from their counties.
Worse, in some cases boys have been admitted to girls schools and vice versa. Having such anomalies reversed is tedious and energy-sapping.
Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang’ has issued a circular proscribing admission at the school level and asking headteachers who had issued such letters to recall them.
“No school should issue an admission outside the system. Any letter issued by any school save for sub-county (day) and private schools will not be valid for admission.
"Any school that may have offered admission to students outside NEMIS (National Education Management Information System) should urgently recall those joining instructions,” Dr Kipsang said.
He added: “Principals should be aware that only form one students admitted through NEMIS will be provided GoK capitation”.
The circular has been sent out to regional coordinators and county directors of education.
The new centralised system of filling up the vacancies requires headteachers to establish the vacancies and report them to the Ministry of Education together with the names of candidates proposed to take up the slots.
Thereafter, the regional coordinators and county education officers verify the proposed candidates and place them as they deem fit.
However, school principals have faulted the new directive as fraught with administrative and logistical challenges.
Kenya Secondary School Heads Association chairman Kahi Indimuli said the directive had added another layer of red tape in the admissions because applicants have to make requests to headteachers who then would have to wait for approval by the ministry.
"A child who was called to join school A and wants to join school B, for example, will approach the principal of school B who will then place the request on the child's behalf," Mr Indimuli said via telephone yesterday.
The process, he said, will be challenging but it will ensure accountability.
In the past, the government would issue a list of admitted students but advise parents who were not satisfied with the placements to apply for admission at respective schools the candidates may have chosen or were interested in.
But according to ministry officials, the system is meant to address complaints by parents that the slots that were not taken up used to be fraudulently allocated by headteachers, sometimes with amounts as high as Sh70,000 changing hands for admissions in top schools during what came to be known as the second intake.
Analysts have faulted the new system for creating avenue for corruption.
Parents will be forced to pay money to some few officers at the ministry headquarters to get slots for their children in schools of choice.
This was the practice in the 1990s when Form One selection was centralised at the headquarters.
However, some parents supported the new system. Parents Association chairman Nicholas Mayo asked parents to adhere to the guidelines.
“Parents should take students to the schools they have been admitted through Nemis to avoid situations where students miss government capitation,” he said.
“The cartels which were thriving during Form One selection will now come to an end,” Ms Jecinta Korir, a parent from Njoro, Nakuru County, said.