Underage learners barred from sitting national exams

Underage students will no longer be allowed to sit national examinations.

The Ministry of Education told parents to ensure that they take their children to school after attaining a minimum age of six years.

Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi said there were many underage children going to school against government policy.

"The issue of underage children taking primary and secondary schools leaving examinations is now a major concern to my ministry. This is because they are being enrolled in schools against government policy," said Prof Kaimenyi when he released the 2013 KCSE exam results at Mitihani House in Nairobi Monday.

Enrolment policy

The minister noted that the policy on school enrolment of children as stipulated in the Basic Education Act required that children are enrolled in Standard One at the age of six years, which means that they take the KCPE and KCSE examinations at 14 and 18 years respectively.

He said the number of 12 year-olds and below and 16-year-olds and below who have been taking the KCPE and KCSE examinations respectively were on the rise.

Out of the over 444,000 candidates who sat for the national exam last year, there were 5,974 (1.33 per cent ) of the total candidates aged 16 years and below who registered for the KCSE examination.

"I urge parents and guardians to note that the benefits of accelerating their children’s’ education are heavily outweighed by the disadvantages and stop the practice," said Prof. Kaimenyi.

At the same time, the ministry has lauded the development of the free primary and secondary education programs, noting that the number of Kenyans attaining the basic education levels have risen considerably over the last decade.


The ministry has however sounded a warning against pupils and students being made to repeat classes for poor performance.

Prof Kaimenyi has said that no child should be made to repeat a class irrespective of their performance because this impacts negatively on retention and completion rates and by extension quality Education.

“There is sufficient evidence that shows that repetition does not enhance performance and it in fact has a negative impact on quality Education.

The longer children are kept in school, the poorer their performance becomes.

"Parents and guardians should therefore not support schools engaging in such practices which are against the Basic Education Act, the Constitution and the rights of the child," said Prof Kaimenyi.

He also said that several schools were being mismanaged for lack of supervision, a state highly orchestrated by teacher absenteeism.

"These are also issues of concern that affect quality of Education negatively which need to be addressed," he said.

According to the ministry, the transition rates from primary to secondary education have risen to over 75 per cent since the introduction of subsidised education.

However, according to the government, the gains made in enhancing enrolment in secondary schools are threatened by several factors some of which are perpetrated by some detrimental school management practices.

Such practices include forced repetition, sending students out of school due to poor performance, introduction of unauthorized levies among others.
- The Nation, March 3, 2014.

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