Economy

Private schools lose out in student enrolment

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Children play at Star of Hope Primary in Lunga Lunga village, Industrial Area Nairobi attends to a student on November 2. Schools reopen on January 4. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

Student enrolment in public schools remained unchanged last year as that in private institutions dropped by almost 200,000 amid disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic that saw the prolonged closure.

The 2021 Economic Survey shows enrolment in public schools grew 0.6 percent to 8.58 million while that in private schools dipped 11 percent to 1.45 million between March 2020 and March 2021.

Learners were forced to stay home as the schools remained shut for nine months in efforts to combat the spread of the Covid-19 that was first reported in Kenya in March last year.

“This decline can partly be attributed to school dropouts, due to over-age, teenage pregnancies, early marriages and other socioeconomic factors such as employment as a result of a prolonged closure of schools,” said the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) in the report.

The statistics show the number of private schools reduced by 1,031 to 8,160 during the review period in the absence of a stimulus package to help them navigate challenges posed by the pandemic.

Private schools turned to commercial sources of funding after the government went silent on its promise to provide a Sh7 billon stimulus package to help them stay afloat.

Some of the private schools accrued rent during the months when schools were closed and had to seek alternative financing to retain the premises.

The KNBS attributes closure of some of the private schools to covid-19 disruptions that also saw some parents lose income meaning they could no longer afford school fees.

On the flip side, the data shows the number of public schools increased by 146 to 23,392 as more parents transferred their children from private schools following the economic hardships.

Total secondary school enrolment decreased by 5.7 percent from 3.5 million in March 2020 to 3.3 million in March 2021 when the schools fully reopened.

The number of students who did not resume learning when schools reopened were 233,300 which is 6.6 percent of the total number of students enrolled in March 2020. The number of secondary schools which reopened in March 2021 increased by 0.4 percent.

The normal school calendar will resume in 2023 when the crash programme announced by the Ministry of Education to recover time lost to the Covid-19 outbreak is expected to end.