Millions to miss class as school feeding funds dry up in budget

feeding programme

A boy enjoys his lunch at Olympic Primary School in Kibra, Nairobi, in September last year. 

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • No explanation has been offered for the withdrawal.
  • The failure to allocate funds to the feeding programme goes against the Kenya Kwanza manifesto.
  • The Ministry of Education has now appealed to the National Assembly to reinstate the funding.

Millions of learners who have been beneficiaries of the school feeding programme may go without meals beginning July this year, if the 2024 /25 budget proposals are adopted by the National Assembly.

The proposals for the State Department of Basic Education, which have been prepared by the Budget and Appropriations Committee, have not allocated any funds for the programme which operates in 26 counties that are considered marginalised.

No explanation has been offered for the withdrawal.

The budget proposals also have zero or inadequate funding for learners with special needs in public primary, junior and senior secondary schools.

The failure to allocate funds to the feeding programme goes against the Kenya Kwanza manifesto which promised to double its budget in order to raise the number of beneficiaries. The programme has been allocated Sh4.9 billion in the current financial year.

Conditional grants

“Kenya Kwanza government will double the amount of money allocated to the school feeding programme to immediately raise the number of beneficiaries from two million to four million and to provide conditional grants to county governments to extend the programme and raise the numbers to eight million in primary and Early Child Development (ECD) schools,” the manifesto reads.

Last year, while speaking at the UN Food Systems Summit in Italy, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua claimed the Kenya school feeding programme had doubled school enrolment.

“In Kenya, we’ve succeeded in having a very good and effective school feeding programme that has doubled school enrolment,” Mr Gachagua said.

However, the Ministry of Education has now appealed to the National Assembly to reinstate the funding.

“It is worth noting that the School Feeding Programme was not funded. This being a key priority intervention in the education sector, we request for retention of the budget allocation of Sh4.9 billion,” reads the responses by the Ministry of Education to the Departmental Committee on Education and Research.

Court declines to stop Nairobi school feeding programme

The feeding programme is usually operated by the national and county governments. Last year, the Budget Committee proposed to enjoin the National Government Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF) to the feeding programme, whereby it would match the contribution of the national government.

The chair of the Education committee, Mr Julius Melly, said his team would follow up on the matter with the National Treasury.

School attendance

If funding is not reinstated, it will affect school attendance and retention among poor populations across the country.

Also to be affected would be the Dishi na County programme run by Nairobi County through a partnership with the Ministry of Education.

The county government was meant to contribute Sh1.2 billion to the kitty while the education ministry was to match it. However, Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja told Nation that the county has been running the programme on its own.

“We’ve been running the programme on our own. We’ve not received a single shilling from the ministry, but it will not end. The funding is by the county government and our development partners. No child misses school for lack of food unless they’re sick,” he said.

Mr Sakaja said that the programme has increased enrolment in Nairobi public primary schools by 24 per cent and that by the end of first term, it had 184,000 learners on board. This term, there are 200,000 learners following the opening of more kitchens.

The Education ministry has also seen reduction in allocations for Free Day Secondary Education (Sh1.5 billion), Free Primary Education (Sh1.2 billion) and Sh347 million under operations and maintenance.

Required funding

According to the ministry, the required funding for FPE in the 2024/25 financial year is Sh9.781 billion and therefore the allocated budget has a shortfall of Sh660 million.

The FDSE shortfall is Sh12.8 billion. “If all learners are facilitated with capitation against the allocation of Sh63.9 billion in the proposed budget, then every learner will receive about Sh18,757 only,” reads the report. Each learner in a public secondary school is entitled to Sh22,244 per year.

“On the other hand, if [all] learners are to receive full capitation of Sh22,244 as per the current policy, then 1,381,100 learners will not be funded in Term III of 2024 academic and 372,270 learners will not be funded in Terms I and II in 2025 academic year.”

Semi-autonomous government agencies (SAGAs) under the ministry have a cumulative decrease of Sh1.9 billion in the budget proposals.

“It is imperative to note that four out of the nine SAGAs have zero allocation in the proposed draft estimates. These are Science Equipment Production Unit (SEPU), National Council for Nomadic Education in Kenya (NACONEK) and Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education in Africa (CEMASTEA),” reads the document.

The enrolment for learners with special needs in public primary schools is expected to be 56,553, translating to a capitation requirement of Sh622 million (at a rate of Sh11,000). However, in the budget estimates, the allocation has been omitted.

There is no allocation at all for learners with special needs in junior school although the ministry had put in a request for Sh453 million.

The enrolment for learners with special needs in public secondary schools is 21,999. They have been allocated Sh200 million although they require Sh786 million. This allocation will cater for only 5,597 learners at the rate Sh35,730 per student, leaving others unfunded.

“Provision of the required budget will facilitate realisation of Article 53 of the Constitution on free and compulsory basic education,” the ministry document reads.

The Kenya National Examinations Council has a deficit of Sh3.9 billion in the allocations. It has been allocated Sh5 billion against a requirement of Sh8.9 billion to conduct school examinations, assessments and invigilation.

“The funds are insufficient to cater for all administration costs, including payment of examiners and invigilators,” the report reads.