Kenya bans boarding for primary, lower secondary schools

Students of St Theresa SS, Katende, Mpigi District in Uganda report back to school on September 7, 2022.  Kenya's Ministry of Education will abolish boarding schools for Grades One to Nine from next year. PHOTO | FILE

Kenya’s Ministry of Education will abolish boarding schools for Grades One to Nine from next year, in a move that — coming just six weeks to the reopening of schools — has caught many parents flat-footed.

Announcing the hugely significant policy shift, the principal secretary for Basic Education, Dr Belio Kipsang, said the learners need to be close to their parents and guardians.

This comes as a shocker for parents whose children are already enrolled in boarding schools, but the move was praised by headteachers, who insisted parents must take up the responsibility of raising their children.

“The real reason we want to do away with boarding schools is to make education affordable. On average, parents pay up to KSh45,000 per year in extra county schools and KSh53,000 in national schools. [It’s even higher] in private schools,” explained the PS.

He said less than five per cent of public primary schools have boarding facilities. Speaking during the official opening of the Kenya Primary Schools Head Teachers Association meeting at Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Primary School in Mombasa, the PS said the government prefers day schooling for junior secondary.

The policy shift is one of the recommendations made by the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms and presented to President William Ruto last Thursday. The President announced that junior secondary school will be domiciled in primary school, a departure from earlier plans to have it in secondary school.

The government will also not allow private schools to register boarding sections for junior secondary school. Registrations for new private primary schools seeking to have boarding facilities will also not be approved.

Build low-cost boarding schools

“We must walk together to make learners acquire [good] values. It’s the only way we shall be able to engage with our children. For the first nine years of learning, between Grades One and Nine, the government will insist on day schooling,” Dr Kipsang said, adding that this will allow parents to play their role within the competency-based curriculum and not delegate their responsibilities to teachers.

Yesterday, in a speech read on his behalf by Dr Kipsang at the conference, Dr Ruto said he will ensure access to education for all by partnering with stakeholders to build low-cost boarding schools in arid and semi-arid areas and for pastoralists communities, in what the PS said was an “intervention policy”.

“When their parents go out to look for pasture, we want to make sure the children are in school. We are encouraging all junior secondary schools to strive to be an environment that allows children to be close and bond with their parents. For the existing boarding facilities, local communities and the state will agree on the way forward,” he added.

Most headteachers welcomed the change.

“We applaud the ministry for abolishing the boarding schools. This will ensure that learners are close to their parents. These are young children who need close supervision from their parents,” said Ms Alice Kabeka, the headteacher of Baguo Primary School in Malindi County.

The headteacher of Gathonga Day and Boarding Primary School from Tharaka Nithi County, Ms Anne Babu, termed the move as a “good initiative”.

“However, we want to be advised further because parents have already prepared to bring their children to our boarding facilities. What happens to facilities like dormitories? Maybe we can rent them out to tenants,” said Ms Babu whose school has 350 learners, most of them boarders.

Ms Rosemary Nyong’o, the headteacher of Ryururu Girls Boarding Primary School in Meru County, said: “The only challenge now is that, when you go up to Grade Nine, we don’t have facilities. If there are no boarding schools, it means our children will have to go to day schools, therefore our schools will be deserted, and we will have to close shop,” she said, adding that the school recently introduced day schooling for play group learners up to Grade Three pupils.  

Dr Kipsang urged school managers to be conversant with the responsibilities that arise from domiciling junior secondary schools within their institutions.

“Start validating and verifying data. We want to ensure that each one of us can host junior secondary and, where we think we can share responsibilities with neighbouring schools, let’s say it,” said Dr Kipsang. According to the Ministry of Education, almost 50 per cent of public primary schools have secondary schools nearby. There are more than 23,000 public primary schools.

“The most critical facility [are science laboratories], therefore we shall be required to share some of [them],” said the PS.

However, he assured Kenyans that his ministry will collaborate with its partners, including parliamentarians, to put up enough infrastructure and to ensure that all learners have access to basic facilities such as laboratories and books.

Dr Kipsang urged the teachers to capture all the information required of them in the National Education Management Information System, saying, the ministry will use the system to get all its data on schools, capitation, distribution of books as well as to address other concerns on the education sector.

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