NEARLY 250,000 pupils who successfully completed their primary education were denied a place in secondary school when term started last month.
Education minister Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka said that, of the 454,500 pupils who sat for the primary exit examination last year, only 208,000, or 46 per cent, will join Form One (the first year of secondary).
This represents a 5 per cent increase on last year's intake. But it came as a shock to many parents who expected their children would be selected to attend some of the 2,800 state secondary schools.
They criticised the district quota system, a practice that denied deserving pupils access to secondary education.
The shortage of places is due to a shortage of schools. More than half of secondaries can take only one first-year class of 35 pupils.
Girls were more disadvantage: only 100,172 will be enrolled in Form One this year compared with 108,057 boys.
The number going to secondary school falls well short of the government's target of more than 50 per cent of the age group by the year 2000. Only 24 per cent of 14 to 17-year-olds are currently in school.
Although the government appealed to parents to find alternative education programmes for their children, this will not be easy since most of the youth vocational training centres have collapsed. The capacity of private schools has also significantly decreased. While figures indicate that private schools will admit 20,380 pupils this year, it is a drop of 15 per cent on last year's intake of 23,849.
Government officials attributed this to the loss of interest among private education investors in secondary schools in favour of the primary sector.