The government has announced that the country only has 25,000 Form One boarding school places available for the 2024 academic year.

This year, about 393 000 candidates sat the Grade Seven public examinations, with most expected to join high schools next year.

Grade Seven exam results are set to be released on Friday.

An average 100 000 learners apply for Form One places at both public and private boarding schools annually through the Electronic Ministry Application Platform (EMAP).

EMAP is an online system that allows Grade Seven learners to apply for Form One boarding school places.

The platform was launched by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education in 2017.

In an interview, the ministry’s communications and advocacy director, Mr Taungana Ndoro, said the portal, which opened on November 1, will close on January 15, 2024.

Government has already set January 9, 2024, as the opening day for Form One classes at public boarding schools.

“All applications will be done through the EMAP system; in the past, there have been challenges, with the system becoming too busy in the last days, resulting in most parents having challenges accessing the network,” said Mr Ndoro. “This time, we have been working round the clock to ensure everything runs smoothly.

“However, applications need to be done as early as possible to save ourselves the last-minute rush and challenges.” Once Grade Seven examination results have been released, said Mr Ndoro, the EMAP will be opened for school heads to commence their enrolment.

“We have around 25 000 boarding places available for Form Ones for January 2024,” he continued.

“However, we have not yet established how many learners have registered on the platform so far.”

Mr Ndoro urged parents and guardians to make use of the online enrolment platform.

Day school enrolment is also being done online, with the ministry, insisting that parents should make up their minds regarding the applications as the system is not programmed to make changes.

He said direct enrolment at schools will not be permitted.

“EMAP eliminates any room for corruption; the system was crafted to protect parents because they were being ripped off by corrupt school authorities,” said Mr Ndoro. “Parents, guardians and learners are also warned that they should be sure of the choices they make the first time because there will be no room for them to make changes later.

“Parents love the transparency the system provides, but let me hasten to warn that the system is not editable.

“Once you enter your (school) preferences, you cannot then come back tomorrow and say I want to make changes on my choice of schools.”

The system, said Mr Ndoro, was accessible to everyone regardless of geographical location.

“The system is very effective and is accessible to all Grade Seven candidates of 2023, including those in rural areas, who want to enrol for Form 1.”