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February 18, 2019

Parents set up pupils for distress in school selection fiasco

Last week, I watched many parents express their disappointment at the Form One selection process. The parents were a frustrated lot. These are parents whose children scored highly in last year’s KCPE exam and were certain that their children would be called to good national schools. But their children were instead called to ‘funny’ schools.

After years of hard work and constant assurance by their parents that if they scored well they would gain direct admission to enviable national schools, their children were in tears, upset at the news that they would not join their school of choice after all. Notably, all these children sat for their exams in private schools.

But while the children may not understand the rationale behind the selection process by the Ministry of Education — where the demographics of the student population are taken into account — their parents know this. Maybe they understand it, maybe they don’t. But the bottom line is that they do not agree with it.

My worry though is for the children.

For close to nine years, their parents repeatedly told them that working hard in school would guarantee them a spot in a national school of their choice. With eyes fixed on their goal, the children studied hard and excelled in their academics. They passed their KCPE with flying colours.

Then they relaxed, painting pictures of themselves in their new school uniform, certain they had secured a ticket to the school.

But when their admission letter came, the letter was not from their dream school, but instead a ‘funny’ school –probably one they had never heard of.

Even worse is when they heard that their counterparts from nearby public schools who scored lower grades than they are the ones who were admitted to the national school. The children cried, their years of hard work and studious excellence all coming to naught, they opined.

But can you blame them? Is it really their fault for feeling that way? Did their parents intentionally set them up for such feelings of dejection?

Truth is, most children believe everything their parents tell them. When their parent tells them to work hard in order to join that enviable national school, they will believe exactly that. When their parents tell them that if they score 400 marks and above they are guaranteed of a place in the best national school, they will believe exactly that. Their parents cannot lie to them now, can they?

The children grow up believing that if they don’t get into one of those coveted national schools, then their secondary education and future will be ruined.

Sadly, many parents are the ones frustrating their children today. Instead of encouraging their children to believe that no matter the school they are in, they are smart and can excel in their studies, parents are making their children believe that their success is pegged on them attending a top-rated national school. Admittedly, while there are plenty of advantages of attending such schools, where there is a favourable environment for students to excel academically, socially, mentally and emotionally, it does not automatically spell doom for the child if he does not attend a particular school.

To avoid a repeated scenario in their younger children, what is currently happening is that many parents are now withdrawing their class six and seven pupils from private schools and transferring them to public schools. That way, their children stand better chances of gaining admission into the coveted national schools if they score well. This may have a huge element of truth in it. But is that the solution, really?

I also understand that there are some parents who are trying to skirt around the system by registering their children in public schools where they sit their end-term exams, but yet continue attending classes in their regular private schools. Remember children ape their parent’s behaviour. What message is such a parent sending to his child?


The writer is a motherhood blogger. Follow her on

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