The government plan to spend Sh8.2 billion to upgrade infrastructure in secondary schools in 30 counties sounds prudent and timely.
It’s in line with the campaign to achieve 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary schools and promises better learning and living conditions for thousands of learners countrywide.
Last week, a majority of the 1,083,456 learners who sat the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education last year — the highest number in five years — reported to their new schools, adding a fresh load to institutions that are grappling with massive congestion, dilapidated facilities and a crippling teacher shortage.
The upgrade plan is, therefore, urgent. Since the 100 per cent transition campaign was introduced in 2017, thousands of learners who have been dropping out school due to poverty, parents’ ignorance or the lure of cheap labour and crime have been enrolled in secondary schools.
But the flip side is that the learning conditions in schools are hardly the kind that would motivate students to stay on for four years.
The media have been awash with stories of students crammed in classrooms with creaky desks, schools without dining facilities, or libraries and laboratories shorn of adequate books and equipment.
Such misery makes learning a punishment to run away from rather than an activity to enjoy or look forward to.
This is why the government needs to walk the talk. It’s one thing to promise an infrastructure overhaul and quite another to execute it.
If the money is available, the work must begin with the speed of an emergency call.
Still, the upgrade must be spread to all the 47 counties because the problems are the same and as urgent everywhere.
This should be a start of a long-term plan to uplift infrastructure in all public secondary schools.
In addition, the government must sort out the teacher shortage, which promises to worsen this year.
Already, the basic education sector is in dire need of more than 100,000 teachers — a cruel irony as learners are increasing while the teaching force shrinks.
All these problems come at a time when the government is rolling out the Competency-Based Curriculum to replace the 8-4-4 system, with the ultimate goal of giving learners better work opportunities through the recognition and development of their unique talents within the school set-up.
Unless these challenges are resolved decisively, most parents who can afford it will move their children to private schools, which will in turn cash in on the demand to raise their fees unreasonably, while the majority of learners will be left behind. That would be a huge blow to the 100 per cent transition policy.