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The rise of private schools and essence of education

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By KARIUKI WAIHENYA
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More Kenyans are enrolling their children in private schools, leading to an upsurge in the number of academies and an increase in tuition and other fees countrywide.

Though basic education — both primary and secondary — is generally free or heavily subsidised by the government, the wealthy and the middle class are shunning public schools in favour of private institutions, most of which charge anything between Sh50,000 and Sh800,000 a term.

The government introduced free and compulsory primary education in 2003 in line with a global push to scrap all charges after the adoption of the universal declaration of human rights in 1948, and which declared education a human right.

In secondary, the government has waived all fees in day schools, while parents pay between Sh50,000 and Sh75,000 yearly for their children in boarding schools, depending on the institution’s category.

In addition, students get free books and the government takes care of infrastructure and teaching staff.

Yet, despite this flow of national largesse, parents are opting to take out huge loans or direct their savings to pay considerable amounts of money in fees to private academies.

According to official Ministry of Education figures, the number of private primary schools has more than doubled over the past four years from 7,742 in 2014 to 16,594 this year.

On the other hand, public primary schools have only increased by 1,728 from 21,718 in 2014 to 23,446 currently.

A similar trend obtains in secondary schools, where private ones have increased fourfold – from 1,048 in 2014 to 4,310 currently. Public schools have only increased by 1,731, from 7,686 in 2014 to 9,417 this year.

In the category of private schools are the high-cost ones that specifically target the middle class and the very wealthy, who prefer to enrol their children in institutions offering foreign curricula.

Dr Geoffrey Wango, an education lecturer at the University of Nairobi, says parents opting for private education are simply going for quality.

“Private schools are obviously better equipped, not congested and mostly well-organised and structured,” he says, adding that the country’s rising population has also created the demand for more schools, which the government has not been able to cope with.

He also blames staff shortages in public schools, poor teacher morale and general indiscipline among the learners for the upsurge in academies.

The government’s efforts to make basic education affordable to millions of parents have paid off, resulting in an enrolment surge from around 5.3 million in 2003 to around 8.8 million currently in primary. In secondary, the enrolment has risen from an average of 800,000 to 2.8 million.

Yet, this influx has come at a huge cost for the schools, most of which are grappling with congestion because their infrastructure has not been expanded to cater for the student inflow.

According to the Teachers Service Commission’s figures, the teachers shortage in both primary and secondary schools stands at around 60,000.

“While the elite in years gone by previously favoured schools such as Mang’u, Starehe, Alliance and the like, the tables have turned and they are now rushing to high-cost academies,” Chris Khaemba, a former principal of Alliance High and currently a director and co-founder of Nova Pioneer Academies, a chain of schools in Kenya and South Africa, says.

He says parents are more discerning and they are taking advantage of globalisation trends and availability of information on marketable courses in a bid to give their children an edge in the job market.

Moved by the sorry situation in public schools, President Uhuru Kenyatta said last week that the government would put more money in public schools to adequately accommodate the high student numbers.

“I don’t mind our schools getting overcrowded, because it shows that our children are learning and they have not been left behind. But I will make sure we have the right infrastructure in place in all public schools,” he told a gathering at Mang’u High School, which is itself grappling with a huge population surge from about 1,259 in 2015 to 1,740 this year.

Mr Khaemba says he expects to see increased agitation by parents for better-equipped public schools, because millions of Kenyans cannot afford enrolling their children in academies.

Over the past three years, more than 100 public schools have been hit by fires, which have razed dormitories, dining halls and administration buildings.

Experts have blamed a communication breakdown between the students and teachers for the chaos.

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They have also pointed fingers at frustrations and mental torture among students due to congestion and generally dilapidated infrastructure in many schools.

It is this disarray in public schools that has created the demand for academies, which have manageable student populations, top-notch facilities and a healthy teacher-to-learner ratio of about 1:30, compared with most public schools, which operate with an average rate of 1:60.

Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) chairman Kahi Indimuli says the campaign to achieve 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary schools has created congestion in classrooms, dormitories, school fields and toilets.

“This threatens to lower the quality of learning as the environment is not conducive enough, makeshift houses made of tents have been converted into classrooms, staffrooms and dining halls,” he says.

Some of the elite schools that have recently been registered include Woodcreek Schools and Crawford International School — both of which are international schools located on Kiambu-Ruiru Road.

Woodcreek Schools, which sits on 30 acres, was opened in January last year and offers International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) curriculum, which is examined by International Examinations Board.

The school’s management has capped the capacity of each class at 15.

The facility, which has a population of close to 100 pupils, also has a fully operational primary school and junior high school units which range from year one to year 11, and pre-university — year 12 and year 13 — where students go up to the A-levels.

The kindergartens have television sets while the upper classes have large digital projectors, interactive smart boards, white boards and computers.

According to the director, Mr Peter Karoki, the infrastructure, which include carpeted floors for lower classes and equipment, have been designed to offer quality education and matches the fees.

“What matters in schools is infrastructure, facilities, human resource and environment. It is very difficult to provide such in high-end areas because you need adequate space, which is no longer available, Mr Karoki says.

Deputy Principal Daniel Muthee says they are in the process of putting up an amphitheatre to nurture art talents among the students, a library complex, science complex to cater for science subjects, innovation centre and boarding facility.

To educate your child at the school, which also has invested in extracurricular activities, the fees range between Sh93,000 and Sh105,000 per term for kindergarten and between Sh160,000 and Sh315,000 for years one to 11.

Crawford International School, which also opened in January last year and has capacity for 1,700 students, offers the Cambridge syllabus, and is part of South Africa’s JSE-listed ADvTECH Group, Africa’s largest private education provider.

The facility was designed by Boogertman and Partners Architects, and developed in conjunction with Rendeavour, one of Africa’s leading urban developers, and owner of Tatu City.

Just like at Woodcreek Schools, the classrooms are equipped with digital projectors, interactive smart boards and white boards.

Laptops are provided for all teaching staff. The design earned the school a finalist spot at the acclaimed International World Architecture Festival in Amsterdam.

The school’s managing director, Ms Jenny Coetzee, said: “Our decision to come to Kenya is informed by the insatiable demand from parents and students for international, yet locally relevant education systems in Kenya that can impart their children the right way and foster their career growth and development.”

To educate your children in the school, the fees per term range between Sh136,667 and Sh146,667 for kindergarten and between Sh170,000 and Sh475,000 for the years one to 13.

Nova Pioneer Education Group, a Pan-African independent school network offering preschool through secondary education for students from ages three to 19, started a primary school in the area in 2016 and boys’ and girls’ secondary school, which started last year.

Nova Pioneer is situated on 20 acres of land along the Kiambu-Ruiru Road and includes modern dormitories, classrooms, an administration building, dual kitchen and dining building.

It offers the local curriculum with a strong emphasis on innovation, leadership, integrity and life skills.

The school, according to its website, states: “We prepare the next generation of leaders and innovators through world-class teaching methods with an emphasis on 21st century skills”.

Additional reporting by Eric Wainaina



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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