KICD loses books purchase role to School Equipment Production Unit

DEB Primary school

Grade Seven learners at DEB Primary School in Elburgon, Nakuru County, display textbooks distributed by the government on February 25.

Photo credit: John Njoroge | Nation Media Group

The multi-billion shilling school textbooks publishing industry will experience major changes after recommendations of the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms (PWPER) report are implemented in the next 12 months.

The report has recommended that the role of procurement and distribution of textbooks to public schools be transferred from the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) to the School Equipment Production Unit (Sepu).

This implies that KICD will only be responsible for the development of curriculum designs and evaluation of manuscripts submitted by publishers while the procurement function shifts to Sepu.

Further, the PWPER report recommends that Sepu be restructured and renamed the School Learning and Instruction Materials Centre (SLIMC) to reflect its broader mandate.

“Provide for its (SLIMC) establishment in the Basic Education Act and expand its mandate to include the procurement and distribution of learning and instruction materials. Thus, the current arrangement where books are procured for schools by KICD be discontinued, and the function taken to the restructured Sepu,” PWPER recommends.

The report also recommends that SLIMC be responsible for the training of publishers and digital content creators on the development of quality content. This role is currently played by the KICD.

SLIMC will have a diverse membership, including representatives from the Basic Education department, KICD, Kenya National Examinations Council, Kenya Teacher Training College, National Treasury and the Private Schools Association.

Currently, Sepu is based at the Kenya Science campus of the University of Nairobi, with a lean staff.

The new mandate rekindles memories of the Kenya School Equipment Scheme, which supplied textbooks, stationery and other learning resources to schools in the 1970s and 80s. The programme collapsed with the implementation of the structural adjustment programmes which introduced cost-sharing in education.

There are proposals to increase the capitation to schools for all levels of basic education. This will see the amount of money set aside for textbooks and other learning materials increased and under the direct management of SLIMC. The proposed allocation per learner for textbooks and learning resources are Sh1,125, for pre-primary, Sh1,808 for primary, Sh5,826 for junior school and Sh7,844 for senior secondary.

The PWPER report also recommends changes to the number of approved books the government can procure for supply to schools. KICD usually selects one book per subject based on the technical score and pricing.

“Ensure that the best two evaluated textbooks by KICD are supplied to each public school and strengthen KICD’s capacity to publish course books in areas where publishers do not submit manuscripts for evaluation,” the report reads.

Sepu is currently facing issues related to inadequate revenue allocation and a lack of modern machines in the production unit, which hampers its ability to provide efficient and quality services. Furthermore, its current mandate is limited to the supply and distribution of science materials and apparatus. PWPER recommends addressing these limitations and expanding Sepu’s mandate.

In February 2023, the government supplied books valued at Sh3.2 billion to all public schools that have junior secondary learners. The consignment included over 17 million textbooks covering various subjects and more than 400,000 teachers’ guides.

The direct procurement of textbooks was introduced in 2018 following an outcry that despite billions of shillings spent, the government had failed to achieve a 1:1 learner to textbook ratio. The ratio has since been achieved.