How Magoha's new school system will teach Form One cartels a lesson

George Magoha

Education CS George Magoha hands an admission letter for Thika High School for the Blind to Mang’era Christopher during the launch of Form One selection at Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development in Nairobi on April 11, 2022.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

Cases of deserving students being denied Form One admission due to unscrupulous principals may soon be a thing of the past following the revamping of Kenya's education management system.

Form One reporting days have over the past been characterised by frustrated parents calling on the State to intervene so their children can get justice.

They have complained after discovering that children’s names were missing from the list of learners selected to join national schools despite having received admission letters.

The Ministry of Education says it has re-engineered the National Education Management Information System (Nemis) after identifying cross-cutting challenges such as process and data mismatches.

“With the re-engineered Nemis system, challenges such as delays in learner admission or challenges in ease of retrieval of data for timely decision-making will be a thing of the past,” said Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha.

Aside from Form One selection and admission, parents will have access to their children’s academic performance and be able to initiate transfers from one school to another following the upgrade.

The new system decentralises data accessibility, as opposed to generating reports from one source, which had made the process prone to manipulation.

Prof Magoha said the new system, which will be rolled out on a pilot basis to run parallel to the current one, will be foolproof to curb cartels.

“The system has been re-engineered by re-designing the database and the ministry’s processes in an end-to-end manner to ensure that how processes are conducted by end users from the initiation of a process to its completion, is captured on the system,” he said.

Decentralising of the Nemis comes on the back of concerns raised by the Auditor General that it was impossible to verify the expenditure of Sh60 billion due to the inability to access the student enrollment data on the system. Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu said several anomalies were noted in the transfer of education subsidies to schools.

She said the ministry transferred free education subsidies to 9,024 secondary schools amounting to Sh36,739,481,231 but the data on the number of students per school and county at any time of disbursement could not be verified.

Prof Magoha noted the ministry had procured and installed more robust servers to enhance data accessibility, assure system availability and efficiency of data processing and retrieval.

Other features introduced in the new system include the ability for head teachers to apply for capitation in a bid to boost transparency and accountability.

“Headteachers can now apply for capitation on the system, alongside other funds, for instance, the low-cost boarding funds, digital literacy, sanitary towels, learning materials and infrastructural programme grants,” he said.

Headteachers have over the recent past complained about delayed disbursement of government capitation amid the high cost of living that has made it difficult to run schools.

Currently, the government is financing schools in four equal quarters under the free primary and free day secondary school funding.

In 2019, secondary school heads lobbied Parliament for a fee increase of up to Sh17,773 per student annually citing rising operation costs and maintenance of classrooms and desks.

This was barely a year after the introduction of free day secondary education allocating each student Sh22,224, in a review aimed at boosting transition rates from primary to secondary schools.

In August 2020, school heads across the country were shocked after the Ministry of Education reversed school funds that had been released to the institutions as part of government capitation.

The disbursed funds usually reflect in the Nemis system before they land in the schools’ bank accounts, with each institution receiving funds depending on student numbers.

This was followed by revelations that taxpayers had been losing billions of shillings annually financing the 'education' of 529,997 ghost learners.

Prof Magoha said at the time the loss was a result of head teachers and corrupt Education ministry officials inflating enrolment numbers used by the government to disburse funds for Free Primary Education.

The FPE programme started in 2003 during President Mwai Kibaki's regime. Currently, the government allocates Sh1,420 per learner.

Going forward, the Nemis will be integrated with those of other education stakeholders, to allow for a more centralised and accurate, up-to-date database of education indicators.

This includes integration with the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) system for the management of Teacher data, the Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC) systems for management of learner performance data, the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) systems for management of the education curricula and the provision of learning materials to Institutions.

Training on use of the revamped Nemis system will start soon ahead of its pilot rollout that will run parallel to the current system.