Hardships of secondary school enrolment in Kenya
This week is the time of the school year when Kenyan first grade students enroll in secondary schools. Students can normally choose from the “commuter” or boarding school type of education. The choice of the school mainly depends on the results of the final exams at primary school. In Kenya students can not choose their secondary school but it is done vice versa: the secondary school chooses from students – based on the results of their final exams – by way of sending out the so-called “calling latter”. Students may choose from schools from which they were sent calling letters. Obviously, the better results they achieve at the final exam the more schools will send them calling letters thus they have more options. In certain cases it is also possible to enroll in a school without a calling latter if the school is unable to fill vacancies through the letters.
The boarding school type of education incurs a significant financial burden for the family, especially at the beginning of the first grade because on top of the expensive annual tuition fee (that can be as high as 150 thousand HUF – half of which is payable at the beginning of the year) they also have to buy their uniform (approx. 30 thousand HUF), books and stationery items (30-35 thousand HUF) and items that they will need in the campus. The latter is always specified by the school as the invitation letter contains a list of items that need to be purchased, including things like a metal container, washbowl, mattress, linen, towel, etc. while the school also determines the color and brand of shoes as well as the number and color of underwear to be bought. Naturally there are schools where the list is not that specific and exhaustive and provide a greater freedom of choice; nevertheless, the boarding school option always costs a lot more for the family. Most of the items have to be purchased new and the children’s own clothing items can not be used. The clothes that they wear on the way to the boarding school have to be changed and taken home by the parents. So they leave their homes without any baggage and buy the necessary items on the way to school.
In secondary schools students wear a uniform – similarly to primary schools – and in boarding schools they are required to wear their uniform even through weekends. Luckily, this is not the “normal” uniform, they have their own weakened uniforms that can only be worn in the weekends.
This means that students are supposed to spend their weekend at school/in the campus. Boarding school students are allowed to visit their parents during holidays (April, August and December) and parents may only visit them on the so-called parents’ days – once in every trimester (max. two times per school year). This makes secondary school life hard not only financially but emotionally as well. What’s more if the child goes to a secondary school which is far from his or her home sometimes it happens that they do not meet their parents and siblings for a whole year. It is mainly because parents do not have enough money or time to visit their children and holidays are also spent with relatives who live nearby – also due to financial reasons. (We also have to know that the child-parent relationship in Kenya is completely different than in Europe. For example, children are not that much “in the focus of attention” and it is frequent that they live with their grandmother or relatives and it makes the bond between the child and the parents weaker which perhaps makes their departure easier.)
In our Kowuor child support program 4 students would like to start their secondary school studies this year. We are looking for permanent sponsors or one-off donators who would make it possible for them to attend secondary school. If you would like to help please send an email to the following address: [email protected]. Thank you very much!
(Recently we managed to enroll two children and this article was written on the basis of our recent experience.)