The government’s policy of progressing all Standard Eight candidates to Form One is a major turning point in the education sector.
It is a crucial step in achieving universal basic education — internationally, a minimum of 12 years in school.
For years, the country had to contend with a depressing situation where slightly more than half of primary school leavers transited to secondary education.
Thus, a large chunk of learners were left out, resulting in high wastage rates.
Worse, there were few opportunities since options such as technical and vocational education and training was moribund.
Moreover, primary school leavers are pretty young, just in early teenage, and not mentally, physically, psychologically or legally ready for the world of work.
On Monday, Form One admissions began with a high turnout. This is the chance to critically interrogate the 100 per cent transition and crucially, the secondary education subsector.
Secondary schools face acute congestion and overcrowding. Classrooms, hostels, dining halls and other infrastructure are stretched to the limit.
Schools are understaffed as the government has restricted teacher recruitment, replacing only those who exit while not factoring in increased student population and expansion of schools.
Put together, secondary schools are in dire straits and the prevailing conditions present severe challenge to quality of teaching and learning as well as student welfare.
This is a matter that cannot be wished away. The government must confront the matter and provide practical solutions.
On a positive note, Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha announced the government’s disbursement of funds to all schools to ease the cash crunch.
Under the subsided secondary education, the government allocates Sh22,244 annually to every student.
Primary school learners are entitled to Sh1,420. This will obviate the financial challenges. But several issues remain.
First, the government capitation is never given in full and it delays, forcing schools to procure goods and services on costly credit. Second, the fee structure for secondary schools is unrealistic.
Parents pay an average Sh53,554 annually, especially for national and extra-county schools, onto which the government puts in Sh22,444, totalling to Sh75,798.
This figure has been in place since 2014, yet the price of commodities and utilities, like electricity, have risen by several times.
Provisions for capital development hardly exist and school infrastructure is strained and dilapidated.
Thirdly, bursary programmes are poorly coordinated and for that reason, many deserving cases never get the cash.
Government’s aggressive expansion of enrolment of students to secondary schools has to be matched with adequate financial resourcing and proper management systems to guarantee quality.