The government has embarked on a mop-up to ensure all last year’s Standard Eight candidates enrol in Form One, in line with a policy to achieve 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary school.
The campaign is encouraging and underlines the government’s determination to push up literacy levels and create a reasonably well-educated and informed citizenry.
Keeping teenagers in school shields them from crime, alcoholism, drug abuse, cheap labour and all manner of temptations, including radicalisation by terrorist groups.
So far, according to Ministry of Education figures, more than 80 per cent of the targeted learners have enrolled in Form One, a sterling achievement by any standards.
However, in looking for the rest, officials must identify the reasons why they are not in school and not merely haul them into classrooms.
The underlying reason why many parents do not take their children beyond Standard Eight is poverty.
While education is largely subsidised and day secondary schools are supposed to be free, there are a host of fees and levies that schools charge to keep them moving.
These include uniforms, lunch, writing materials and other items imposed by school management.
For a family that can hardly provide three meals a day, an extra schooling cost creates a burden that many parents cannot afford. Some parents resort to sending their children to do menial jobs.
Besides subsidising secondary education, the government with the help of the World Bank recently introduced a Sh20 billion scholarship programme to support the 100 per cent transition policy.
This, coupled with other bursaries, including those managed by constituencies and counties, should be adequate to ensure no child fails to join and complete secondary school.
However, these scholarships do not always end up helping the most deserving cases.
Most are run haphazardly by unscrupulous individuals who merely favour their children or those of their friends or relatives, leaving the very poor to fend for themselves.
This is where the government needs to focus, even as it conducts its door-to-door get-in-class campaign.
For a start, it should establish a body to manage all scholarships — to harmonise and coordinate the distribution of bursaries to ensure fairness.
The body would work with local administrators and religious organisations to vet all applicants aggressively.
It should take a leaf from the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb), which gives study loans to university students in a professional manner.
The mop-up campaign is necessary, but the government must invest time and resources in addressing the reasons why the transition rate falls below the targeted 100 per cent.