The new Ruto administration, no doubt, has good intentions for all Kenyans. The motivation to seek leadership is to guide others to tackle the many challenges they face in their daily lives. It is, therefore, highly unlikely that the government would deliberately go out of its way to make things difficult for its own citizens.
However, its decision to phase out boarding schools from January has come as a big surprise. Though often a subject of debate, the boarding element has been part and parcel of the school system for a long time. There may be compelling reasons to discontinue it, but such a decision cannot just be made on the spur of the moment.
Basic Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang says there will be no boarding primary schools for Grades One to Nine. The government wants parents more involved in their children’s upbringing. Nobody in their right mind can fault that.
It is also meant to make education affordable, as the boarding element is a huge cost element. According to the PS, less than five per cent of all the public schools have boarding facilities and yet, on average, parents pay up to Sh45,000 a year in extra-county schools and Sh53,000 in the national schools. The fees are much higher in the private schools.
However, the ministry risks plunging the country into a major crisis on the restoration of the normal school calendar following the Covid-19 disruptions. A teachers’ union has warned that scrapping boarding schools is an ill-advised move that will hugely disadvantage, especially learners with disabilities and those in the arid and semi-arid regions.
This change also comes at a time when a decision has just been made to locate junior secondary school in the primary section following the realisation of a lack of preparedness and other obstacles. Also, what happens to the private boarding schools, whose owners probably took huge loans?
Could the Education authorities also have forgotten about public participation, which is a constitutional requirement? The ban has come after many parents had enrolled their children and were just waiting for the beginning of the new academic year. It calls for a serious discussion.