Boarding school is no foundation for excellence
Last month, the Ministry of Education issued a circular to schools, which, among other instructions, stated that secondary school students must not be forced to board.
There are a significant number of secondary schools that have both boarding and day wings.
Many parents whose children join boarding/day secondary schools opt to have their children join the day wing because they cannot afford boarding fees.
The government meets the cost of tuition through the Free Day Secondary Education programme under which it remits Sh22,244 to school for every learner in public secondary school.
The Free Day Secondary Education programme has been a game changer in access to secondary education.
Boarding has associated expenses which parents meet through paying Sh53,554 in national schools and Sh40,335 in the rest of the boarding schools.
Without day secondary schools or wings, children whose parents cannot afford the over Sh40,000 are unlikely to join secondary school.
Forcing parents to have their children join boarding wing when they have been day scholars from Form One to Three is uncaring.
The parents opted to have their children as day scholars because they didn’t have the wherewithal to pay for the cost of boarding.
Most of these parents struggle to pay the less than Sh10,000 for their children’s lunch. It is unrealistic to expect to have more than Sh40,000 for the boarding wing.
Forcing children to board implies that boarding is the foundation for good performance.
This assumption is grossly mistaken. Boarding school system is not the only factor that ensures excellent outcomes.
Success in exams is a result of a combination of factors. One of the factors is effective teaching. It is the sine qua non of quality learning.
Teachers play an imperative role in the quality of education offered in schools. They are an indispensable element in the teaching and learning process.
The content knowledge and pedagogical skills teachers require to effectively deliver the curriculum doesn’t require students to be sleeping within the school compound.
The second factor is that students should be motivated to learn. Effective learning depends on active or engaged learners.
A student does not have to be a boarder to be well motivated and to be active learner.
And the motivation of students by the school administration, teachers and parents and the larger school community does not depend on whether the learners are boarders or day scholars.
The third factor is the leadership the principal of the school brings to bear on curriculum management and delivery and also the inspiration, guidance, modeling and coaching they provide to students and teachers.
Effective leadership of an institution has no correlation with boarding or day status of a school.
Strathmore School and Cianda Girls are 100 per cent day secondary schools but they post good educational outcomes every year.
Emulakha Mixed Day Secondary School in Kakamega county is a 100 per cent day. But for many years, it has seen hundreds of students do very well in KCSE.
I have personally seen children of modest family backgrounds join the school and four years later, qualify for university and other tertiary institutions with least stress not just on the pockets of parents, but also on the student’s resilience to learn.
One of the critical pillars of education policy in this country is access of all school-age children to quality education.
A decision that overrides the discretion of parents to have their children in boarding wing undermines the full realisation of access of every learner to basic education. It also creates instability in learning. — The writer is communications officer, Ministry of Education