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Why Free Secondary School Education is Not Sustainable

Inclusion of free secondary school education in the manifestos of both Jubilee and NASA coalition elicited a mixed reaction and was met with a lot of skepticism from Kenyans who questioned on its possibility.

Kenyans were left wondering how the government intends to implement this promise having not fulfilled other promises. Institute of economics affairs CEO, Mr Owino stated though that the implementation is realistic since the cost involved will only cover tuition and salaries. Quoting him “The cost basically takes care of tuition fees, teachers are already taken care of so the amount will not be as much as imagined.”

All the same, according to reliable sources, this will cost the taxpayer close to Kshs 60 billion per annum. The source indicates that the maximum cost of having a free day school education is at Kshs 51.1billion and the cost of current student enrollment is at Kshs 2.5 million.Therefore, considering the rise in student numbers and inflation, the cost would increase to about Kshs 60 billion.

The task force on secondary school fees also indicated that day school will only be completely free if the government paid a capitation grant of 23,975 shillings per student which includes tuition, learning materials, related operational cost and lunch.

Also Read: How Long Will The new Education Reforms Last?

Even so, the government in its report alluded that parents should meet other operational cost (for example lunch) while it only pays for teaching and learning materials as well as other related cost. Then day school will only charge a modest amount of Kshs 6,000, which is almost free.The government report further indicate that; cost of teaching and learning materials would be about Kshs 5,000 and estimated operational cost per student at Kshs 13,000.

During his campaign, the president said that the government had set aside 5 billion to refurbish secondary schools. He stated that provision of free secondary education is one of the priority he wants to accomplish in his second tenure.

The 5 billion thereby allocated is meant to among other things, expand school infrastructure i.e build more than 2,000 classrooms country-wide. This, according to the government, will ensure 100% transition from primary to secondary school is accomplished without a hitch.

The government also indicated that capitation fee was increased by a margin of 33% by mid last year.It says that it has allocated a total of Kshs 32.7 billion to cater for free secondary education up from Kshs 28 billion. This simply means that for over 2.2 million students, capitation fee paid by the government is Kshs 13,000. This therefore leaves a deficit of more than Kshs 10 billion and hence more than Kshs 6,000 per student as was previously indicated.

In a meeting of Kenya secondary school heads, Mr Indimuli,the chair indicated that vacancies are not enough for all KCPE students to allow 100% transition of primary school children to form one. This simply means that the Kshs 5 billion budgeted for by the government will not be enough as only 63,000 of the 150,000 places indicated by the ministry of education data will be created. A deficit of 77,000 will therefore be left.

There is also a question of how schools will be cushioned against delay in disbursement of capitation funds. School bosses claim that currently schools use money paid by parents to fix a few loopholes as government plan to remit funds, BoM also depends on this money to pay support staff and BoM teachers.

Parents should therefore expect to still dig deep into their pockets as they await the government to fully implement this project but the prospects of a successful launch are bleak.

Also Read: The Cynicism of Overpriced Education

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Posted by John Karani