The campaign by the Education ministry to progress all Standard Eight leavers to secondary school is quite impressive. About 80 per cent of last year’s Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examination candidates have enrolled in Form One, a major step in achieving universal basic education. Previously, only half of candidates transited to secondary school, resulting in a major wastage in the education system.
But the hard part now begins. Access is just one aspect of education. The others are quality and relevance, which are what the ministry must focus on. Increased enrolment has triggered massive congestion in schools. Most of them have an average of eight streams for Form One with a classroom hosting more than 60 students. Dormitories, dining halls and other amenities are severely constrained. These have serious implications on quality.
According to Unesco, the universally accepted teacher-to-student ratio is 1:40; anything beyond that is disastrous.
Teacher shortage has been a major challenge for the past decade but this has worsened with the increased enrolment. Statistics by the Teachers Service Commission put teacher shortage in secondary schools at 57,000. Yet, in this first half of the year, TSC can only hire 5,000 teachers, which is a drop in the ocean. With this, the shortage will continue to bite.
The only option available for schools is to recruit more teachers on their own to plug staff deficit. But that has financial implications. A 2014 report by a task force on financing secondary education said then that 37 per cent of teachers in schools were employed by boards of management and paid by parents. Such action will increase costs and eat into schools’ budgets.
Given the government’s vision to realise 100 transition, it must address the funding question. The National Treasury has to increase education budget to employ more teachers. Similarly, the government must find resources to expand and improve facilities, including classrooms, laboratories and dormitories.
Similarly, the ministry must review the fees structure and recommend realistic figures. At present, the fees is capped at Sh53,500 a year for national schools with the government providing additional Sh22,000 capitation per a student. Realistically, however, the money is insufficient. At any rate, the rates were based on 2014 estimates and the dynamics have changed. Not to mention that the State subsidy never comes on time and in full.
The ministry must move from access to quality, equity and relevance of education. It is not enough to send all students to schools but also ensure they receive quality and relevant education.