World Teacher Aid’s great mandate is to improve access to education for children in rural areas. Right now, we are working in Kenya where we have three project areas and five schools between them; five primary schools and one high schools. One way we can measure success is by having more children qualify and join a high school after eight years of learning in the primary school.
The Kenyan education system is divided into three levels: primary (8 years),secondary (4 years) and tertiary. For one to transition from one level to the next, you have to sit for a national examination and them qualify. In primary school you have to sit for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (K.C.P.E) and pass to join any high school in the country. Although this puts a lot of emphasis on passing exams, it is the only way children can transition to the next level.
This year three of our project schools will be fielding candidates for the first time since their establishment. Kimugul in Lemolo A, Sinendet in Lemolo B and our newest addition Safina Haji primary school in Haji Farm community will have their students take the exam to qualify to join high school. The students sit for a week long exams in five subjects; mathematics, English, Swahili, Science and Social Studies. To qualify to join a local secondary school, the student has to scored at least 200 points out of a possible 500 points or 40 percent average. Students who get more points can qualify to join more resourced school such as county and national schools. The higher a student gets the better a school he/she can get admission into which is why there’s fierce competition to get into the ‘good’ schools.
For the communities we work with, the parents may not afford to sent their children to the more expensive and better schools but they can send them to local high school. It is important to note that not all students can join high school and thus are disadvantaged for life since they cannot work in some places without at least high school certificate. Most of these people grow up to work in the informal sector with far less opportunities or live at home farming the family farms. This is why we strive to give them education at least up to secondary school level.
As I have been visiting the schools, I have been observing the way teachers and students are preparing for this final exam. Standard (grade/class) 8 students stay longer in school to study than other grades. They take more practice tests with more efforts by teacher to help them study and prepare for this KCPE exam that takes place in November at the end of the year.
Currently we have only one project high school in Shalom which is doing great in helping those who cannot afford to go to other high schools get at least high school level education. Still even those from our project school in Shalom who score less than 200 points cannot join the local high school since that’s the current education policy in the country.