Effects of free primary education on pupils' participation in primary schools in Bumula division, Bungoma district, Kenya
Waswa, Namunga N
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The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of Free Primary Education on pupils' participation in primary schools in Bumula Division, Bungoma District. Specifically the study aimed at accomplishing the following objectives: 1. To determine the influence of FPE on school enrolment. 2. To determine the influence of FPE on repetition. 3. To determine the influence of FPE on school drop-out. 4. To identify sources of funding for FPE. 5. To identify the hidden costs of schooling. 6. To establish the effect of FPE on facilities. The literature review was divided into four subheadings: enrolment, repetition and premature withdrawal, funding of FPE and hidden costs of schooling. The study used ex post facto research design. Two sets of questionnaires were designed for the head teachers and class teachers and an interview schedule for the AEO. Simple random and purposive sampling techniques were used in selecting the study sample. The sample consisted of 30 head teachers, 90 class teachers of standard one to three and one Area Education Officer (AEO) of the Division. The questionnaire return rate was 73.3% both for the head teachers and teachers. The data obtained was analyzed and interpreted usmg descriptive statistics of mean, percentage and frequency. Findings show that the abolition of payment of school fees through FPE led to increased enrolments in primary schools. Between 2003, the year of removal of payment, and 2005 enrolments increased by 1351 pupils (96.1 %). Although enrolments were highest in Standard One, the number of children enrolled in other grades 2 and 3 also increased, in the period 2003-2005. The study further reveals that pupils still repeat in many primary schools. In lower primary (Std 1 -3) repetition was majorly caused by lack of pupil interest in academic work, health problems and unsuitable studying conditions at home leading to poor performance hence, repetition. In upper primary (Std 4-8) repetition was high in standard seven. Head teachers admit few pupils in standard eight in an attempt to increase their schools' mean scores in examination. On withdrawal, the study shows that the rates recorded before 2003 were higher than those recorded after 2003. Between 2001 to 2002, 1059 pupils dropped out of school compared to only 556 pupils who withdrew after 2003. Withdrawal was majorly caused by lack of encouragement by parents and peer influence. The research findings further show schools have poor facilities. On average eight pupils shared one text book in the schools. The worst hit areas of textbooks were Geography, History, Civics, Religious Education and Science subjects where as many as 54 pupils m one school sampled shared one book in both science and GHCR. The study also established there is overcrowding due to shortages of classrooms. Some classes are as big as 130 pupils and are therefore hard to manage and teach effectively. The average teacher-pupil ratio is 1:62. Sitting arrangements and sharing of desks is also poor with four pupils sharing a desk on average in many schools. Schools also lack libraries, laboratories and some are even missing playgrounds. Based on the findings of the study, the following recommendations were made in an attempt to make free education achieve all its objectives:- • The government should abolish all Levies, subsidiary to school fees and instead step in directly to finance and support all school projects and activities. • Parents should be educated on the importance of education for their children, so that all parents can send their children to school and encourage them to remain there until they complete the primary cycle. • The government needs to decentralize disbursement of funds to schools to the district level as it has done with the constituency development fund to enable them get the money promptly. • More teachers should be employed to reduce the high shortfall and work load to the current staff. Further research should be done on the same topic in the entire district of Bungoma. A study should also be done on the influence of facilities on pupils' academic performance.