Over 1.28 million students will enter junior secondary schools (JSS) in January next year, competing for limited spaces in top schools.
A nearly equal number of students from the 8-4-4 system will enter Form One at the same time, stretching school resources.
The government, however, insists that there is no cause for concern.
Learners enrolled in the competency-based curriculum (CBC) are selecting their preferred schools in a process that will end on August 30.
Even so, many parents are still unclear about how to choose JSS schools because the Ministry of Education has yet to issue selection and placement guidelines.
George Magoha, Cabinet Secretary for Education, promised to do so three weeks ago. For the first time, the ministry will assign students to private schools based on their preferences.
Students will be assigned to secondary schools based on their performance in the Kenya Primary School Education Assessment, which has taken the place of the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams.
The assessment is formatively administered in grades 4,5, and 6, with a summative assessment administered at the end of grade 6.
The first of these assessments will be given in November.
According to a task force report on enhancing access, relevance, transition, equity, and quality for effective curriculum reform implementation, there will be a shortage of 1,489,144 secondary school places.
This would necessitate the construction of 29,783 additional classrooms.
The government began construction of 10,000 additional classrooms, but the total still falls short.
Furthermore, the program does not cover the construction of dormitories or other facilities.
Secondary schools have been congested for the past four years as a result of the implementation of the 100% transition from primary to secondary school.
There has been no infrastructure expansion to match the increase in student numbers.
The worst-affected counties are Kakamega (93,703), Bungoma (83,243), Nairobi (83,062), Nakuru (60,214), Kilifi (58,945), and Migori (58,945).
While many parents and students prefer top-performing schools, these are few and far between, and the vast majority of students will be admitted to sub-county schools, which are primarily day schools.
There are 112 national, 776 extra-county, 1,301 county, 6,297 sub-county, and 1,301 private secondary schools.
According to the report, there are 1,803 public and 479 private boarding secondary schools.
In comparison, there are 5,029 public and 432 private day schools.
There are 390 (private) and 2,245 who have both boarding and day wings (public).
Students with special needs may also have difficulty finding appropriate schools.
However, Education Chief Administrative Secretary Sara Ruto assured parents yesterday that the transition to JSS would be smooth and that the government would expand rural school capacity.
“Some schools are more endowed than others. I think parents feel their children will be more successful if they go to certain learning institutions rather than others, and that is why we are discussing equity,” she said.
Dr. Ruto stated that the ministry had identified schools that lacked critical resources for CBC implementation and that, as a result, capitation funds would be channeled to these institutions to fully equip them.