After the five-week holiday that was extended by a week due to a constitutional referendum in early August, schools in Kenya opened on Monday, 6th September for the final term of the year. I was at my small rural school at nine o’clock for the opening assembly then shortly thereafter more than half the number of learners was on the way back home.
They would not be allowed back until they paid in full or some substantial part of Ksh. 1,500 (about 20 dollars) fee for lunch. It was sad to have them sent home when there was so much enthusiasm to start the term. Again, from the remaining students in Form 3, the English teacher sent home some others who did not have a copy of ‘An Enemy of the People’ - a play that is one of the five literature set-books they are to be examined on in the national examination.
The introduction of Free Secondary Education (FSE) in 2008 eased much financial burden from parents who have responsibility for school meals, uniform, writing materials, health care, transport and the English and Kiswahili set-books. The FSE has increased enrolment rates among other successes but on the other hand it is evident that many parents have relaxed on their responsibilities to meet the expected costs. This, without being ignorant of the fact that ideally, the government should foot a higher bill than it is doing currently.
The impact of absence of learners from school for sometimes as long as one term (3 months) or even more takes a big toll on learning and eventually performance in not just my school but in many others. The precedent set at the beginning lasts the entire term duration due to other social and family concerns creating the biggest challenge to learning in day schools compared to those that are boarding.
It is depressing when in these coming days there will only be ten or twenty learners in a class of 45 and I will have to progress with the syllabus coverage.
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