Early last year, the Ministry of Education undertook to ensure that all 2017 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination candidates who scored 400 marks and above are admitted to any of the 103 national schools. It accordingly admitted all students with the marks into the schools as promised.
It also admitted others into these schools in the light of the sub-county quotas, equity and affirmative action that guide the ministry during placement of children in Form One. It is regrettable that some parents whose pupils performed well in the exams are fixated with the original 13 national schools and feel disappointed that their children were not admitted to any of these schools.
This is unfortunate. The 90 national schools the ministry created have comparable teaching and learning environment and capabilities as the old 13 national schools.
The ministry has made heavy investments in the schools thereby creating or replicating the desirable environment that that define national schools. These schools provide equally compelling teaching and learning experience that will help learners realise their dreams and aspirations.
The ministry expanded the national schools from 13 to 103 because the national system category of schools could not absorb the ever growing number of candidates who performed well.
The 90 schools the ministry upgraded to national status had their classrooms, hostels, laboratories, libraries, and teaching and non-teaching staff modernised and expanded to effectively provide a teaching and learning environment to the caliber of students they now admit. Suffice it to say that the new generation of national schools is as good as the old-generation.
Additionally, every school has optimum capacity. If you admit students into the institutions beyond its capacity, you hurt the quality of education an institution endeavours to preserve or improve on.
The ministry is also guided by the principle of equity in the selection of students who join Form One. Under the principle, the ministry ensures that placement in national schools by applying sub-county quotas, based on candidature strength and affirmative action.
Every sub-county is entitled to a slot in a national school and by affirmative action, which is grounded in the Constitution; students from marginalised and minority groups/areas are given a chance to join national schools.
Merit and performance is still the guiding principle in the selection decisions but in respect to the sub-county quotas and affirmative action. If we do away with these guidelines, we end up locking out an entire generation of children from many counties and regions from the national schools and incidentally, from the extra-county secondary school system.
The resulting admission into national schools and other categories of schools is likely to be unjust, and inequitable. We would end up admitting students into national, extra and county schools from an elite social strata.
This is not good for harmonious society and national cohesion. Public secondary schools especially so national school system are a national asset or institutions which enjoy support from the exchequer.
The government is obliged to ensure every child, regardless of class, gender, and the primary school or region he/she got her primary school education, accesses quality and relevant education. —The writer is the communications officer, Ministry of Education —[email protected]