Education sector has a confidence crisis

Pupils at Mboto Sunrise Primary School work on their competency-based curriculum assignment under a tree

Pupils at Mboto Sunrise Primary School work on their competency-based curriculum assignment under a tree in September last year. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

At independence in 1963, Kenyan political leadership sought to eradicate poverty, disease and illiteracy, thereby promoting political equity, social justice and equal opportunities as well as ensuring equitable distribution of resources and services. 

Incidentally, poverty, disease and illiteracy are so intertwined that the rise in one weighs down on efforts to tackle the others. 

In Kenya, every person has the right to access education, and several factors, including the general rule that persons with more education (all other factors being similar) obtain higher levels of income over time. These seem to reinforce one another to generate a sustained demand for more and better education, which requires adequate financing. 

This is even more challenging, given that the bulk of the financing has to come from families that are poor, whether situational or generational. Studies have shown that the introduction of cost-sharing has increased household expenditure on education to 30-44 per cent of their annual incomes. 

Whereas in the cost-sharing strategy, the government finances educational administration and professional services, parents have to meet the indirect educational costs—uniforms, books and stationery, pocket money and transport.

This shows how indirect costs constitute a critical element in secondary school education financing. Families are spending close to two times their monthly income on school-related expenditures. For example, last May, parents who had their children joining Form One spent Sh20,000 on average on accessories, over and above stipulated school fees. 

Other extra levies imposed include project costs, salaries for BoM-employed teachers and remedial tuition, which are never listed in the fee structure circulated by the Ministry of Education. Attempts by the Education CS to sanction the imposition of such levies by school heads appear to fall on deaf ears.

The media has been reporting that many students are yet to report to secondary school for lack of school fees, with some opting to repeat Standard Eight. There are incidents of some even attempting suicide due to frustration.

Despite initiatives such as the Presidential Secondary School Bursary, Elimu Scholarship Programme and the NG-CDF Bursary Scheme that are meant to provide a safety net for vulnerable families, media reports put doubts on their effectiveness and adequacy. 

Individual philanthropists have come to the aid of some of the children, in isolated cases where they draw media attention. But is this the way to finance education? Given the challenges the CBC programme faces, it is high time we accepted that education in the country is going through a crisis of confidence, hence the need to re-engineer the sector to restore its past glory.

Otieno Nyabola, Kisumu


You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.