Challenges and coping mechanisms of students from arid and semi-arid lands admitted to National Secondary Schools in Nairobi, Kenya
Khamala, Sarah Nafula
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Education is an important means of promoting equality in a country. In Kenya, children from arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) have unequal access to education. The quota system of selection is a policy that seeks to enhance access and equity in secondary school education. This study sought to find out the challenges students from the ASALs, who are admitted to national secondary schools in Nairobi through the quota system of selection, encounter and their responses to these challenges. The research questions for the study were to find out the challenges faced by ASAL students admitted to national secondary schools in Nairobi, to identify the coping mechanisms that ASAL students employ to deal with the challenges that they encounter and to find out what needs to be done to make transition into national secondary schools in Nairobi for ASAL students less challenging. The study employed the descriptive survey design. The target population for the study were teachers, support service providers (guidance and counselling staff, nurses and matrons) and ASAL and non-ASAL students from three national secondary schools purposively selected. The sample for the study comprised 23 teachers, 149 students, 3 deputy principals/senior teachers, 3 guidance and counselling teachers, 3 school nurses and 8 school matrons/house masters. The study used questionnaires, interview schedules and Focus Group Discussion (FDG) to collect data. Data collected was analyzed using descriptive statistics. The results were presented in tables of frequency distributions, percentages, bar graphs and pie charts. The study established that 78.4% of the ASAL students in the study faced initial challenges when they report to Form One. The challenges included adjusting to the new physical environment, academic and social. Other challenges were linguistic, cultural, religious and financial. Since the challenges ASAL students face were at the initial stages, most ASAL students were able to overcome these problems by the time they get to Form Two. Coping mechanisms that ASAL students employ include seeking help from fellow ASAL students whom they feel understand them better. ASAL students tend to keep to themselves and do not interact easily with non-ASAL students. The ASAL students also use existing programmes in various schools that help Form One students, for example, mentor/mentee programme. Most of these programmes are initiated by the guidance and counselling departments. The schools also help the ASAL pupils in getting bursaries to meet their financial challenges.ASAL students also seek financial assistance from organizations like Constituency Development Fund (CDF).The study recommends that schools should have an elaborate induction programme for ASAL students. Schools should provide regular guidance and counselling to ASAL students to help them cope with the challenges that they encounter. Stakeholders from ASAL home areas need to set up funds to take care of needy students admitted to national secondary schools. Schools need to organize talks by successful people from ASAL areas who were alumni of these schools to motivate ASAL students in their new learning environments.