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Daily Nation : February 17th 2014
2 DN A FIELD NOT SO LEVEL Quota or no quota, Kenya’s poor still can’t access quality education To provide a level playing field for Form One entrance, the government allocates more spaces to public primary schools than private ones. On the surface, this seems fair. Noble even. But the biggest and most recurring argument against this system is that it immorally prevents the brightest bulbs from private schools from getting into the institutions they deserve. And then there is the high fees charges in these schools. Even for those who get the admission letters here, money, not quotas, is the true leveller coverstory DAILY NATION Monday February 17, 2014 BY JACQUELINE KUBANIA firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @jacqui_jade gate last week. His muscles aching from the long walk — he had just trekked 48 kilometres to this place — Martin Obila cut a sorry figure. A sorry but determined figure. Where his Form One colleagues were spick and span, dust covered him like a nagging pest, his lips dry from dehydration. And yet, despite the odds, the young boy could not have been happier. For 12 hours he had been on the road. Kisumu to Kakamega. Because he could not afford the Sh200 bus fare. Martin, 16, was hoping to be admitted into H the national school to begin his secondary education. He had none of the usual luggage: no box, no beddings, and certainly no toiletries. His only worldly possessions when he walked through that gate were the clothes on his back, his admission letter into the institution, and a results slip that proudly indicated his stellar KCPE score: 387 marks out of a possible 500. On average, then, he had scored 77.4 per cent in every paper he had sat. And here he was, tired, thirsty, but determined to learn. If he could walk the almost 50 kilometres to school in is once-white shirt was tattered and his shoes covered by a thin film of dust when he finally walked through the huge Kakamega High School this age of spaceships and inter-planetary travel, what else could stand in his way? We use Martin’s story to get into the rights and wrongs of Kenya’s education system, which regulates admission of students into secondary schools in a very controversial manner. The system uses quotas and affirmative action to provide a level playing field for Form One entrance, ensuring that top-performing candidates from private academies do not crowd out Martin and his counterparts from public schools and hog all the available places in prestigious national schools. Favours public primary schools On the surface, this seems fair. Noble even. Everyone wants to give the disadvantaged child a chance. However, the biggest and most recurring argument against the quota system is that it immorally favours pupils from public schools, hence prevents the brightest bulbs from private schools from getting into the institutions they deserve. Some argue that a pupil from a public primary school with 350 marks is more likely to get a place in a national high school than one from a private school who scored over 400 marks. So, yes, it is true that public school pupils are getting more admission letters to national schools than their private school counterparts. However, those highly coveted admission letters are the closest most of GROUP EDITORIAL DIRECTOR: Joseph Odindo GROUP MANAGING EDITOR: Mutuma Mathiu FEATURES EDITOR: Bernard Mwinzi REVISE EDITOR: Mary Wasike SUB-EDITOR: Naliaka Wafula PHOTO EDITOR: Joan Pereruan CHIEF GRAPHIC DESIGNER: Roger Mogusu DESIGNERS: Nzisa Mulli, Andrew Anini, Dennis Makori, Alice Othieno, Michael Mosota, Ken Kusimba, Hassan Ibrahim, Benjamin Situma, Joy Abisagi, Virginia Borura, Teddy Murimi, Linus Ombette REPORTER: Joy Wanja LAYOUT: Michael Mosota COVER & GRAPHIC CONCEPT: Hassan Ibrahim Mwera these poor kids will get to the schools of their choice — because the cost of learning at the desired institutions is so high that unless they get outside help, they have no chance of meeting it. And this does not make Musau Ndunda a happy man. The secretary general of the Kenya National Association of Parents (KNAP) has been up in arms about the arbitrary raise of school fees by secondary schools heads. 102,000 Fees per year, in Kenya shillings, charged at Moi Girls Eldoret national school for new Form One admissions, according to reports. “Schools are conning parents openly, and those bloated fee structures should be declared null and void,” he argues. The man, though, has legitimate cause for worry. An article in the Business Daily last week revealed that top national schools in the country were charging astronomically high levies. Limuru Girls High School, for instance, was charging Sh128,000 annually, more than 110 per cent the fees paid at the institution in 2009. Others on the list were Alliance High School at Sh120,000, Moi Girls High School Eldoret at Sh102,000 and Lenana School and Nairobi Schools, both at Sh96,000 per year. Now, if Martin cannot afford the Sh200 bus fare to Kakamega, there is no way he will pay the fortune charged in these schools. But he is a lucky boy, because Kakamega High School, a former provincial institution which was upgraded into national school status in 2012, is charging a lot less than its counterparts: Sh66,450 per year. And that’s where the rubber meets the road. For him and his ilk, it does not matter what the levies are. Without support, he will just be another statistic, just one among hundreds of thousands of poor but bright kids who are unable to afford an education. Despite the fact that pupils from public primary schools were allocated 75 per cent of the available 17,000 slots in the 105 national schools, majority of them will not be reporting even as the term begins. They, like Martin, are too poor to afford even a fraction of the fees. This is perhaps one of the many reasons that has seen KNAP move to the High Court to challenge the increase in levies. KNAP’s case is premised on the fact that is published every week by Nation Media Group Limited. It is distributed free with every Daily Nation. Unsolicited manuscripts, artwork, transparencies are submitted at the sender’s risk. While every care will be taken on receipt of such material, the Nation Media Group Limited cannot accept responsibility for accidental loss or damage. ©Nation Media Group Limited, 2009. All rights reserved.
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