Disappointed parents want Magoha explain cases of misplaced secondary school admission

The stress time after placement of form one admission following the release of Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) results is here.

Parents are making desperate calls and frantic visits to anybody they think can help their daughters and sons get a school of choice.

This is caused by the Ministry of Education’s (MoE) disregard of KCPE candidates’ choices of schools. The tough speaking Education Cabinet Secretary, Prof George Magoha is not making things any better for the disappointed parents and children.

His threats that children must join the schools they have been placed in is an abuse of children’s right of choice.

The computerised placement of children in form one is shrouded in mystery. Most children have been placed in schools they never selected or have never even heard of.

The argument by the Ministry of Education senior personnel is to balance the distribution of children across the country.

This, they argue, will promote nationhood. However, they ignore the fact that national unity cannot be promoted by traumatising the young children and their parents and guardians.

During selection, the KCPE candidates have four levels of schools to choose from. There are 137 national schools categorized into 4 clusters: C1, C2, C3, C4 from which a child should select 4 schools, one from each cluster.

Out of the 745 extra county schools, the child is expected to select 3, one from each cluster: C1, C2 and C3. In addition, the child should select 2 county schools and 2 from sub-county level.

The issue with this information is that no proper guidance is given to parents although head teachers are supposed to do that. I attended one selection exercise and the head teacher could not answer most of the questions raised by the parents.

To deter parents and their children from selecting all familiar schools from the same category, the Ministry has clustered schools in a very tricky way.

For example, in the national school category, the C2 cluster has most schools from hardship areas like north eastern and parts of Lamu and a candidate is expected to select one school from this cluster regardless of whether they have ever heard about the schools or not.

No wonder the Cabinet Secretary has complained for two consecutive years that Nanyuki Boys High School has been the most popular choice among the candidates.

This year, it was selected by 156,003 boys while it has a capacity of only 480 students.

The good CS has attributed this to lack of proper guidance to the candidates during the selection exercise. This is actually not the case; the problem lies with the way these schools are clustered.

In its category, which is C2 under national schools, Nanyuki Boys is clustered with other schools, most of which are from hardship areas and the only school candidates find preferable or known is Nanyuki Boys.

It’s therefore misleading to make people believe the school is selected because it is very popular, yet the poor candidates are actually left with no choice. 

Another similar case in the national schools category is C1 cluster where Pangani Girls appears like the most known among the schools in that cluster thus drawing 118,073 applicants against its 336-student capacity.

Other seasoned national schools like Alliance Boys/Girls, Kenya High School, Nairobi School and Mang’u High School, among others, received many applicants but unfortunately they were all in the same cluster hence a child could only select one.

This notwithstanding, despite qualifying for a place in some of these national schools, most students who could not be placed in their first choice were thrown into schools they never selected.

This begs the question on the reason for making students select four schools in the national category yet once they miss their first choice, they are thrown to a school they never selected.

The most prudent thing would have been to at least place them in their first choice of the next category which is the extra county schools if they fail to fit in any of their four choices of national schools.

Unfortunately, candidates with even as high as 390 marks which would have secured them a place in a well-established extra county schools of their choice if not national schools, have been thrown to little known schools that they never selected in the first place.

This is very demotivating to the candidates and inconveniencing to parents and guardians.

Another ignorance that is playing out among parents and the general public is of certain schools being non-performers. There are quite a number of parents whose children have been admitted in ‘good’ high schools but nevertheless they are busy searching for slots in other schools.

I have personally received so many requests from parents wanting to move their children from renowned schools such as Njiri’s High School, Chania High School and Nyeri High School and you wonder what information they are relying on. 

Parents have also been poisoning their daughters and sons since joining standard 8 and the subsequent selection of schools. They give false hopes to their children on how they will get to a specific school. Many children tend to relax because they know they will get the school of their choice.

Instead of first discussing the results with the child to help them understand and accept them, they keep convincing the child that they will still get to the school they have been brainwashed about.

This has caused children heartaches after the release of form one admissions as reality dawns on them. 

The Ministry of Education should avoid these many issues by first and foremost ensuring that children are placed in the schools they selected.

This is possible since they select a school at every level and hence if they don’t meet the requirements for one level, the ministry can consider the next lower level.

The clustering of schools should be reviewed to ensure there is a fair mix of schools from different regions and categories.

Since the few famous schools cannot accommodate all the children, let the parents and general public accept that even top schools started at a humble background and there are individuals who sacrificed to join or build them. Let us provide the necessary resources in all schools to avoid these unfair competitions. 

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