Top KCPE candidates to miss preferred secondary schools due to limited spaces in higher institutions

Friday, May 21st, 2021 00:00 |
Teachers and parents at Maryjoy Primary School in Mombasa celebrate with some KCPE candidates after the release of the results last month. Photo/PD/FILE

Thousands of the 2020 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam candidates are set to miss their preferred secondary schools due to limited spaces in some of the country’s top institutions.

Officials currently formulating guidelines for the Form One selection exercise in Naivasha are grappling with the enormous task of placing all the 1,179,192 candidates in secondary schools.

Reports emerging from the exercise indicate that the vast majority picked their first choices from the 17 so-called “original” national schools while shunning the 86 other institutions which were elevated to that status with the advent of devolution.

“The problem we are currently experiencing is that majority of the candidates concentrated on the original national schools and ignored the newly-created national schools in the counties.

This is forcing us to develop a criteria which may compel us to place the candidates in schools other than the ones they applied for,” said a top Ministry of Education official who sought anonymity.

Traditional schools

National schools which received very few applications are from the far-flung counties of Turkana, Wajir, Mandera, West Pokot, Lamu, Tana River, Marsabit and Garissa.

“We have very good schools in places like Wajir and Lodwar, which are national or even extra-county but have very few applications.

Majority of the candidates chose traditional schools such as Alliance, Nairobi School, Mang’u, Lenana and Maseno. Officials are now forced to find a balance,” said the official.

Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha is on record stating that an audit of new and existing vacancies in public and private secondary schools has been made to allow for admission of all learners.

“To ensure that all candidates are placed in schools of their choice, based on performance and available vacancies, the Ministry of Education will employ a water-tight system that will be both credible and of high integrity,” said Magoha.

The current situation is similar to the one experienced in 2019 when thousands of candidates chose elite national schools as their first option despite their limited capacity. 

The most selected national schools in 2019 included Pangani Girls in Nairobi, which received 111,817 applications against a capacity of 336, followed by Alliance High School with 83,489 against a capacity of 384 and Kenya High with 49,727 against 336 slots. 

“This disadvantages candidates in the sense that missing their first choices leaves them at the mercy of the remaining schools, some of which they might not be interested in,” said Magoha.

Online admission 

In the same year, 30,000 candidates were placed in schools they had not picked, with the ministry attributing this to skewed candidates’ choices or unavailability of vacancies in home counties.

Similarly, a few candidates opted to select one or two choices of secondary schools against the required number of 11, thus limiting placement by their preferred choices.

The ministry opted to place such candidates in schools matching their marks and had capacity, even if they had not chosen them, with Magoha directing head teachers to work with parents to ensure candidates make choices according to guidelines.

In 2019, 33,009 students were selected to join the 103 national schools, 184,816 others joined extra-county schools while 188,454 were selected to go to county schools. Some 777 special needs candidates were placed in their choices in regular schools.

The bulk of admissions, however, went to sub-county schools, which accommodated 669,145 students.

The admission of Form One students is done online through the National Education Management Information System (Nemis).

All learners selected to join national, extra-county and county schools receive admission letters online.

Upon downloading, the learner presents the letter to head teacher of the primary school where they sat their KCPE exam for authentication and is further verified by the principal of the admitting school.

Principals are always urged to confirm that letters presented to them belong to learners strictly in their selection list, with schools allowed to access it from the NEMIS platform.

The ministry developed a reporting module to be used by each principal to relay admission of each learner online, in a bid to provide real-time data on admission and reporting trends. Principals are responsible for the security and integrity of their school data in Nemis.

Last month, Magoha warned that he would personally take charge of the selection process to ensure due process is followed.

His remarks came against the backdrop of parents’ rush to have their children secure slots in coveted national schools. He noted that all learners cannot fit in specific schools and will have to be spread out.

“For those bombarding me with requests, stop wasting my time. My gold standard is that poor child and we will make sure they go to school and is issued with a scholarship.

I want the people to get us very clear, that being poor does not mean God did not give you a good brain so money does not buy everything,” Magoha said.

Spreading out

“I will be fully in charge of Form One selection. We want a system that will pick the best brains, say, from Kiandutu slums in Thika and take them to Alliance; they do not have to come from a private school or a wealthy family to go to certain schools, that will not be allowed to happen,” he affirmed.

 Magoha has also warned people already collecting money to place students in secondary schools of their choice, citing an individual who collected Sh315,000 with promises of taking the child to Alliance High School. “How are you going to take the child there?

All people in the education sector have to be extremely careful, let it not be traced to you for taking money to place learners in certain schools,” he warned.

“I want to issue a strong warning, there is too much of nonsense; everybody wants every child to go to three or four schools. Please stop that! You are actually wasting our time,” Magoha asserted.

In the 2020 KCPE exams, 8,091 candidates scored 400 marks and above and are all expected to join national schools.

Another 282,090 scored between 300–399 marks, while 589,027 scored between 200 and 299 marks. Another 299,677 candidates scored between 100-199 while 307 others scored 01–99 marks out of the possible 500 and will be expected to join various categories of schools.

The students are expected to join Form One in July, when the 2021 education calendar will begin.

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