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Posted on: 22 Feb, 2023

Scholarship opportunities for secondary school available for bright and needy students who scored 350 marks in KCPE……” reads a scholarship opportunity advert.

At a first glance, this looks very exciting, and it’s very nice to see students from needy backgrounds getting an opportunity to study when they could have had none. On deeper thought, however, what happens to those needy students whose circumstances hinder them from attaining the cut-off points? Does it mean it’s eternal gloom and doom for them?

During the exam season, candidates in marginalized areas such as parts of Baringo, West Pokot and Turkana are often faced with an array of issues: insecurity, hunger and long distance to school. According to national statistics, nomadic groups remain at the bottom tier in regard to school enrolment rates, classroom performance, gender balance, and progression to the next level of education. Interrupted by banditry attacks, some lose members of their families or have to flee from their homes during this critical period. Whereas education stakeholders and security personnel do their best to ensure the safety of the students, their mental and emotional stability is highly affected.

 While other candidates across the country get to travel short distances whether, by public means or even school transport, the candidates in these areas travel an average of 7km Kilometers to school. Some candidates have to be transported to the examination centers in police vehicles, while others have to spend nights in the schools due to the long distance. Unfortunately, these areas are the most affected by drought and food insecurity throughout the year, with many just having one meal in a day. During their studies, the pupils often face a shortage of teachers and facilities, some being forced to share classes because of lack of adequate facilities. This is even worse for girls who sometimes have to share toilets with boys when they are going through their menstrual cycles, a factor that in itself encourages a lot of drop-outs. Most of the schools in these areas also end up not having finished the syllabus by the exam season. There have also been many cases of pupils dropping out when the exams are almost due, since a number of the Schools do not meet the required 15 candidates to be able to become an examination center, forcing the few to travel for longer distances and sit for exams in very unfavourable circumstances.

Upon announcement of the KCPE results the transition rate to secondary school is very minimal at an estimated thirty percent. This is attributed to the high poverty rate in the area, rendering the secondary school transition costs especially tuition fees very expensive and not a priority to most families dealing with basic needs such as food and water. As a result, most of the boys become full-time pastoralists with the risk of engaging in cattle rustling, while the girls get into early marriages.

The candidates from the conflict-ridden and drought-stricken areas sit for the very same examinations and are graded in the same way as that student from urban areas whose home is safe, food secure, and has accessible means to get to school. Whereas this cannot be changed, how about we have affirmative action for the scholarship opportunities? 

Can the foundations consider having a cut-off of 250 marks for the sake of these children who seem forsaken? Is it possible to set aside a portion of the scholarships – albeit 20 percent for these candidates out of the total number of scholarship slots?

Edith Gor is the Programme Manager of the Christian Impact Mission, a faith-based organization based in Machakos, Baringo and West Pokot counties.

 Email address: edith.gor@christianimpactmission.org

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