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It’s Time to Deboard- Reasons Why Boarding Schools Should Be Abolished

The typical back to school box for boarders in Kenyan schools

Many middle-income earners in Kenya have no interest in the quality of education offered in rural schools; after all, their children will not go to those schools. Click To Tweet

I happened to be in Chuka town this past week. I couldn’t help but notice the beehive of activities taking place – on the road, in supermarkets and all around me. With blue and yellow metallic boxes stacked on their heads or back, parents were holding tightly onto their very innocent children. Both the parents and the students seemed exhausted, tired and worried.

This encounter rekindled my memories of joining Tumutumu girls in Nyeri County in the year 2004. I vividly remember the morning I joined high school; how we went to our home Kiosk with the shopping list: 2 tissue papers, toothpaste, Arimis, cotton wool, shoe polish, shoe brush and a comb. The other items such as Kamusi, dictionary, golden bells, a mathematical table had been generously gifted to me by my neighbours. The nightdress, towel, and blue metallic box belonged to my mother.

Like those many mothers I encountered in Chuka town this week, my mum carried the metallic box on her back for 1.7 km from Giagatika to Tumutumu. I was both excited to be away from home and worried about the many uncertainties ahead. And today, I wonder, was it worth it? Are boarding schools worth it? Why can’t children join the nearest day secondary school?

I have always restrained myself from this discussion of “day schools are better than boarding schools”. Interestingly, when the conversation of deboarding gained momentum in Kenya, I was one of its biggest opponents. I believed that children need to explore other surroundings and get value for the sleepless nights spent reading to secure admission to that “National School”. But after some deep reflections, and for the following three reasons, I think all Kenyans must support deboarding of schools.

1. Reduced costs

In 2008, the Government of Kenya introduced the subsidized secondary education programme to ensure that all children gain secondary education, regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds. Under the programme, the Government meets tuition fees of Kshs 10,265 per student per year for all children enrolled in public secondary schools. Guardians, on the other hand, cover lunch, transport, and uniform costs. In most day schools, this comes to a total of Kshs 2,000 (20 USD) per term in a day school. In a boarding school, this costs around Kshs 30,000 (300 USD) per term. This means that a one-term fee in a boarding school is enough to cater for the four years’ fees in a day school.

2. Increase in parental engagement

Parents are the ones who brought their children to life, therefore, they directly impact those children’s lives. Their job is to motivate, encourage and influence their children positively. This requires time and commitment. Day schools provide parents with enough time to mould their children into what they want them to be. 

Researchers have identified the following three ways that parents can continuously support their children’s learning: support their education, create a conducive learning environment at home and help them with homework.

Additionally, the Competency-Based Curriculum puts the parents at the center of education; this means that the parent is the first educator, trainer and source of authority for the child.

3. Quality education for all

Many middle-income earners in Kenya have no interest in the quality of education offered in rural schools; after all, their children will not go to those schools. Notably, the rural day school has been “preserved” for two types of students: the very bright children with no school fees and those who perform poorly academically. These schools lack enough teachers, and those that are there are not motivated. They lack the right resources and infrastructure. They lack the goodwill needed from the community to thrive. However, if there is no alternative to day schools, all Kenyans will demand quality education in local schools. And many will invest the time and resources needed to improve their standards.

Having boarding schools is a form of discrimination against those who cannot afford to get there. And as long as they exist, the dream of quality education for all will never truly be realized.

It is time to deboard!

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8 responses to “It’s Time to Deboard- Reasons Why Boarding Schools Should Be Abolished”

  1. Janesther Gathigia Karugu says:

    It may not work cos the government teacher is demotivated. True it will hypothetically reduce costs and bring equality, but my guess if they’re abolished they will lead to mushrooming of secondary private schools the likes of Strathmore, st Mary’s etc. So the secondary schools will still be left for the underprivileged. Don’t abolish boarding schools, improve facilities on day secondary schools to the likes of Strathmore, Aghakan etc. So that parents take their kids there by choice. Boarding schools especially national once are good exposure to students.

  2. James says:

    Even as we transition to this, we should advocate for each secondary school should have one street for day scholars, this will be the first step

  3. Evans Mutinda says:

    Indeed not boarding is the way to go

  4. Esther Maina says:

    I totally agree with the facts. However before we can implement this, we need to have more accessibility to the schools so that the student only needs to travel a short distance preferably a walking distance. I experienced both boarding and day high schools and each has its challenges. In the city a day school can be a nightmare to access. I had to use public transport and it was not easy and too much time was spend shuttling between y home and school. Concerning parental involvement, that is an individual choice each parent makes. There is no guarantee that when a high school student attends a day school that the parents will be more involved. At that age, the child is past parental supervision in their studies. Working parents will hardly have the time, energy or the drive to follow up a teenager in study
    The other challenge is the distractions that often affect many day students. Children who are not very passionate about education are easy distracted and fall prey to the many social vices. As we consider debording, we as parents must be more vigilant.

  5. Jovanna David says:

    A good write up. More consultations needed before the policy is made on deboarding the schools.

  6. Philip says:

    All the above reasons are undeniably true…what about the child’s self growth in terms of independence, tolerance, accountability and responsibility that comes with maturity… perhaps we should only consider abolishing boarding schools to the lower classes that still need the parents in their early stages.

  7. Onesmus says:

    I disagree with you,this because boarding school provide conducive environment for preps during night then at home . Again at home there are many chores awaiting them like preparing super like girls do.Again some families aren’t able to arenot electrified for students to do studies at night like at school more so at home there are some Friends that hinder them from studies like just because of peer pressure they get from those who aren’t schooling

  8. Maurice Omondi says:

    I I have experienced both and in my opinion; they need to co-exist especially at the high school level. While day a school gives a parent the advantage of seeing their child grow, it also has the disadvantage of stifling the growth of the same children. Children attending day school grow with the comfort of their homes in their heads and some never grow up. However, if the home is not very comfortable, then they will like the school environment. The good thing is that parents have a chance to see their child grow and will not have surprises in new behaviour. However, in places like Nairobi, children will spend an average of 3 hours in traffic- time that would have been better spent reading or bonding with family and friends e.g through games.

    The government has not invested much in day schools thus making them unattractive to teachers, students and parents alike. On average, majority perform poorly.

    Boarding schools provide children with a chance to be independent and learn how to survive. There is the danger of negative influences- which can also be picked from day schools. The challenge with boarding schools is the lack of investment in making the schools to be like home especially for children used to the good environment at home. Often the school management ignores the needs of students and some boarding schools end up appearing like prisons and places of torture for children. This is unacceptable and the government should make sure that all schools put in place the minimum standards for good living in boarding schools. Children can end up picking bad habits due to the stressful nature of some schools. One common characteristic of the recent high school admission is congestion.

    The site of children lumped in congested and poorly lit dormitories with 3 decker beds is dehumanising. Some do not have sufficient bathrooms or latrines, let alone food or even sufficient water. Stress can cause unbecoming behaviour in children.

    Overall, it is upon the parents, teachers and students to work together to ensure the school environment fosters learning. Several schools have already instituted measures to foster conducive learning and parental engagement. This should be sustained. The government should provide oversight to ensure that minimum learning and habitation standards are maintained in both day and boarding schools.

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