Admission crisis looms as more schools close doors

Public schools in Mombasa could be staring at a crisis if pupils from private schools that have gone out of business, all seek admission.

Education officials yesterday said the 139 public primary and secondary schools in the county have limited capacity especially with Covid-19 restrictions.

Mombasa Education Director Moses Makori said before the disease outbreak, most institutions on the island were under-enrolled.

“I do not have the figures of how many vacancies we still have in public schools. But we had space to accommodate some of the numbers coming in,” said Mr Makori.

He said the county had 98 primary and 41 secondary public schools with over 30,000 learners before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mombasa Education Chief Officer John Musuva said the county was compiling a report of the private schools that were struggling or have closed down, and the learners affected.

“So far, the information on my desk is that 20 to 30 schools in Mombasa are struggling but I have not been given the exact issues they are going through,” said Mr Musuva.

He conceded that the institutions could be in difficulties because the fees they relied on to finance their operations, had dried up. “We have written to the County Government of Mombasa to waive licences.”

Musuva said many of the affected parents had not secured slots for their children in public schools near their homes, adding that they were working with all stakeholders to resolve the problem.

Operate in slums

“There are 800 primary and secondary private schools but only 400 are registered by the Ministry of Education. Most of the unregistered schools operate in slums,” he said.

Brightons Academy proprietor Elder Gualala yesterday said he had shut the school and told parents to look for vacancies in other schools.

“I had 200 pupils and eight KCPE candidates. But I cannot reopen because my bills have accrued to about Sh1.5 million. This includes county rates, wages, and other statutory deductions,” Mr Gualala said.

He said while the Class Eight pupils had been placed in other private schools, it was up to parents of the other learners to move them to public schools.

Winne Ouma, the parent of a Grade Four pupil from Tudor slums, said she had postponed her daughter’s education to January due to lack of vacancies in public schools.

“She has not gone to school since they opened on October 12. Her school closed and the proprietor wrote asking us to transfer our children to other schools,” said Ms Ouma.

Nyali Primary School Principal John Kombo said schools will have to invest heavily to create space for learners to meet the State’s Covid-19 protocols.

“Public schools will be overwhelmed if the other classes are opened. If private schools do not create more space, most pupils will not get a vacancy,” said Mr Kombo, adding that the institutions should double or triple their capacity before January.

“A class that used to accommodate 35 pupils now has 10 or 15 learners because of Health ministry protocols. Unlike other parts of the country, Mombasa is an island and most schools have no land for expansion of classes or to put up tents,” he said.

A human rights group called on the national government to intervene, saying private schools play an important role in the county’s education sector.

Haki Africa Rapid Response Officer Mathias Shipeta said the State should borrow a leaf from the UK Government, which is paying salaries of 13,304 teachers in refugee camps.

“The government can pay at least between Sh10,000 and Sh20,000 per month to the 16,000 teachers. That will cost at least Sh160 million a month and Sh960 million in six months,” said Mr Shipeta.

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