The ministry of education proposal to upgrade selected schools countrywide to national status is indeed a milestone. Previously Kenya had only 18 national schools, something that put a strain on Form One admissions as parents scrambled to have their children admitted in the limited places available.
Missing a chance to get admission in a national school has dashed hopes of many students who believe getting excellent grades to secure admission in government universities is guaranteed once in a national school.
The programme seams to be in tune with the devolution of power affirmed in the new constitution, as the upgrade will see a national school at least based in each province or rather county. Despite the schools upgrade programme eliciting sharp reactions from various quarters, with the church seeking more consultations before the upgrade of its sponsored schools and others crying foul in the selection. So far, however, the pros seem to outweigh the cons.
If the minister’s words are anything to go by, the first phase will see 6000 new spaces created in these schools for Form One intake next year, bringing the total number of students who will enroll in these schools next year to 10,500 from the initial 4,500.
The upgrade will raise the number of national schools to 114. “When all the three phases are complete and operationalised in the next seven years”, Education Permanent Secretary James Ole Kiyapi assures us, “national schools will have about 80,000 students.”
Among the proposed schools for the upgrade are; Chogoria Girls’, Meru School, Machakos Boys, Makueni Boys, Kathiani Girls, Murang’a High, Bishop Gatimu Girls, Moi Girls Isinya, Maranda High School, Kisii High, Friends School Kamusinga, Mama Ngina Girls, Wajir Girls among others. The schools will receive sh 25 million each to build new classrooms, dormitories, equip laboratories and erect modern fences among other things.
So that’s all well and good but there is a word of warning. Today The Star reported that the Parliamentary Committee on Education has raised fears that the Free Primary Education (FPE) programme may collapse within two years if the government does not employ more teachers and increase funding to schools.
‘Committee chairman David Keoch”, reported The Star, ‘said the government is sabotaging FPE by their failure to implement issues agreed by stakeholders in the education sector’.
We can only hope that the national schools project will be well rolled out and administered, to ensure that the tax payers’ money doesn’t end up being embezzled akin to that of the Free Primary Education programme.