Delay school opening to build labs, classrooms, parents say

JSS classrooms

 Workers paint a block of JSS classrooms at Elburgon Secondary School in Nakuru County in this photo taken on October 11, 2022.

Photo credit: John Njoroge | Nation Media Group

Parents have asked the government to postpone the reopening of learning institutions to ensure the establishment of adequate infrastructure to accommodate students transitioning to junior secondary school.

While urging President William Ruto to push back the reopening dates for junior secondary schools, the National Parents Association (NPA) said this would ensure that there are sufficient classrooms and laboratories in place before students arrive.

“The government has the right to postpone schools reopening for one or two months to have these structures in place before learning can resume,” said NPA chairperson Silas Obuhatsa.

He was speaking after the National Treasury began releasing National Government Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF) in batches to constituencies. The Attorney-General had approved the disbursement of the funds following the resolution of a stalemate between the courts and Parliament over the administration of the Sh44 billion kitty.

Despite acknowledging the current shortage, Mr Obuhatsa expressed confidence that construction of  enough classrooms and laboratories was possible in under a month.

“Infrastructure in primary schools is not enough. With NG-CDF coming on board, additional buildings can be developed. The government has released some of these funds already,” said Mr Obuhatsa.

Mr Obuhatsa also criticised the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) over what he said was meddling in parents’ affairs. This follows LSK’s bid to be enjoined in a petition challenging the legality of the NG-CDF, hours after the first batch of funds was released.

Pending petition

LSK President Eric Theuri had faulted the courts for failing to expedite the hearing of the petition and Treasury for not waiting until there was clarity on the legality of the kitty.

“The disbursement of the funds in the environment in which the court has already pronounced itself and while there is a pending petition is an embarrassment to the court. We intend to follow up the matter in court. We will join that petition to have this matter expedited,” said Mr Theuri. The LSK boss revealed that the petition was initially being heard by a three-judge bench but was delayed after one pulled out. The matter was taken back to Chief Justice Martha Koome for reconstitution.

“It would have been wiser to fast-track the hearing of the petition against the current 2015 Act so that the country is clear on whether the funds can be disbursed legally or otherwise,” he asserted. Mr Obuhatsa termed attempts by LSK to block the funding as disappointing, uncalled for and unacceptable.

“We cannot afford to lose the gains at a time when the nation is going through economic hardships. Parents deserve all the government support because they are the ones who put this administration in place. They woke up very early to vote while some LSK members were enjoying their sleep in warm blankets,” he said.

He insisted that the move by LSK would undermine the rights of poor children who can only afford education through NG-CDF support.

He noted that they were in solidarity with the government and urged Dr Ruto’s administration to move with speed to disburse the remaining NG-CDF funds to cover all the 47 counties.

“We are ready to meet [LSK] in court should there be need on behalf of our 20 million parents who are our members and taxpayers to defend the government’s wishes. Kenyans are not going to entertain idle bodies that want to block the progress of the nation,” he said.

Infrastructure

Mr Obuhatsa said the association will support Dr Ruto’s administration to put up the needed infrastructure whether now or later on and asked parents to be patient with the new administration.

He also called for increased capitation to public primary schools to ensure the effective running of the institutions and successful implementation of the competency-based curriculum.

Following the release of the NG-CDF funds, some members of Parliament, including Kuresoi North MP Alfred Mutai and Nakuru Town West’s Samuel Arama, have confirmed to Nation receiving Sh7 million each.

Mr Arama revealed that a part of the monies would go into sorting out school fees needs, while another portion wil go towards the construction of a laboratory in each school.

In 2020, while he was Deputy President, Dr Ruto proposed that 95 per cent of NG-CDF should be used in building infrastructure in schools.

Last month, the President also called on legislators to make NG-CDF a constitutional institution to safeguard the development of education. He said the kitty had aided the construction of many schools and provided tens of thousands of students across the nation with bursaries.

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