Improve standards in public schools
The dire conditions at St Michael’s Holy Unity Academy mirror those endured by many poor pupils n Nairobi’s public and informal schools.
None of the 67 class eight candidates who sat their Standard Eight examination at St. Michael’s in Kibera will go to secondary school following the cancellation of their results by the Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) for alleged cheating.
In such schools, up to 60 pupils are crammed into two-by-two-metre tin-roofed and mud-walled classrooms. As many as five pupils are forced to share one desk — hardly the right conditions for any meaningful learning.
It is too much to expect good results from the majority of the public and informal schools when the teacher-to-student ratio is 1:50 plus, way above the Ministry of Education recommended ratio of 1:40.
The plain truth is that the standards in these schools are terrible, if the results of last year’s KCPE examination are anything to go by.
All the 1,032 candidates in Nairobi who scored more than 400 marks were from private schools while all but one of the 32 candidates from Nairobi in the country’s top 100 list were from private schools.
This is particularly shocking because public and informal schools account for 73 per cent of the total number of candidates.
Candidates registered from Nairobi’s 828 registered informal schools in 2013 were 8,820.
It means a very small fraction of pupils from these public and informal schools will ever get a chance to join national or even provincial secondary schools to pursue their academic ambitions.
This is a situation which the Nairobi County Government must arrest quickly and with zeal if we are to avert the emergence of class privilege in our education system, where only the minority from affluent backgrounds have access to quality education.
The solution does not lie in marginalising candidates from private schools in Form One selection, but rather in improving standards in public and informal schools to make their pupils compete on a favorable footing with those in private schools.
The secrets of success in education include learning in an environment that is conducive.
Leaving these students to their own devices will not help.