Most schools in Kenya now operate the Kenyan 8:4:4 system. This means 8 years in primary, 4 in secondary and 4 at university. The school year is of three terms starting in January each year.
Primary education is now free for all in Kenya. The principle is great but most schools are lacking in resources and many schools have classes of up to 90 pupils. The teachers in these schools are very poorly paid and recently went on strike over pay. However, the attendance of teachers themselves is appallingly bad and classes are often left to fend for themselves.
In addition to the state schools there are independent ‘fee paying’ primary schools and BDA is one such school.
Primary schools have eight years or classes and the children do exams at the end of each term. As the student progresses, the marking seems to get tougher. These exams are standard throughout Kenya and are marked out of 500. The final exam (the KCPE) is at the end of class 8 and is the chance for the student to gain admission to a secondary school.
Secondary education is not free and must either be paid by parents or guardians, or by a sponsorship or scholarship.
The secondary schools fall into three categories:
National schools - these are the top schools in the country which receive some government support, but not much. To gain a place, a student must do very well in the KCPE by getting at least 400 out of 500. Last year BDA had one sponsored student, Margaret, who gained a place at Kenya High School. Kenya High is a superb school in Nairobi built by the British in the 1930's for the daughters of the British community. (Simon and Nicky have visited the school and were impressed by the facilities and campus but also by how hard the students worked.)
Provincial schools - these too get some government funding but the standards for both admission and education aren’t as good. The standard varies and one of our sponsored students got an offer of a place last year, but as the education offered was not thought to be up to the standard of BDA secondary, he remained at BDA.
Private secondary schools - these are not state funded and must be paid for by family or sponsorship. BDA is just such a school.
Whilst at secondary school the student will again do exams every term. (Actually they have 'mocks' half way through each term as well.) Students will be marked A+, A, A-, B+ B, B-, C+ etc. A student will seek to achieve at least B- as this is the standard at which a student is likely to gain admission to one of Kenya's universities.
University education is provided by the government for those attaining the required standard. Most students are self supporting with a combination of the state support and evening or holiday work.
KES presently supports 21 students in the BDA primary school and 20 in the secondary, as well as Margaret at Kenya High School. We’re very proud of how well Margaret has done and are confident that in this year's at least one and possibly up to three candidates will be offered places in National or Provincial schools.
When a student gains an offer of a place at a National or Provincial school we do, of course, ensure that we are able to continue supporting that student through their secondary education. The sponsorship costs are usually much the same as BDA although there is quite a long list for school uniform requirements for the first term.
It’s clear that the higher calibre and better paid staff employed at BDA, together with the input of bright children sponsored by our supporters has helped drive up the standards at BDA with the result that after only four years, the school is consistently in the top three schools of the district division (from a total of 45 schools). This means it’s attracting many fee paying pupils.
What comes through time and time again is the enthusiasm that the students have for education and learning and how their parents or guardians see this as the way out of poverty for them and their families.