Tax on text books hurting results, say publishers

Kenya Publishers Association Council Member Kithaka wa Mberia (left), Moran Publishers Ltd General Manager Mary Maina and Phoenix Publishers CEO John Mwazemba during a press conference at a Nairobi hotel yesterday. [PHOTO: ANGELA MAINA/STANDARD]

Your child is likely to perform poorly in languages again if the Government fails to zero-rate tax on text books.

The Kenya Publishers Association (KPA) yesterday attributed the low performance in languages in the just released Standard Eight results to low interaction with books.

KPA Chairman David Waweru said most parents cannot afford the recommended books because of the Value Added Tax (VAT) slapped on books in 2013.

Mr Waweru said writing is a function of reading and observed that low readers would most likely perform poorly in national examinations.

“If we do not make books cheaper for parents and schools then we should expect more poor grades in coming examinations because of low interaction with the reading material,” said Waweru.

Releasing the 2015 KCPE exam results, Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i said English composition had the lowest percentage mean score of 41.38.

"The poor performance of candidates in English composition is worrying because it means learners lack the ability to creatively and coherently express themselves in prose,” he said.

He urged parents and teachers to inculcate a reading culture among learners saying it is the only sure way for children to improve on their writing skills.

But yesterday, Waweru said access to books is pegged on the affixed cost.

“Taxing books and knowledge undermines the goals of providing quality education and making Kenya’s human resource globally competitive. This means that Kenyan children are not reading sufficiently as there are not enough books in schools,” said Waweru.

English language, Mathematics and Religious Education recorded a slight improvement in performance in the year 2015 compared to the 2014 KCPE examination.

Religious Education recorded the highest performance with a percentage mean score of 70.20 per cent.

If the Government scraps the VAT on books, the cost of books would go down.

Waweru said publishers have been considerate not to increase the cost of books saying Kenyans are an already burdened lot.

In 2015 alone, the average cost of production went up by about 22 per cent.

“The cost of printing papers, inks and plates went up by 11 per cent. The average increase of cost of labour was seven per cent and the cost of production went up by four per cent,” he said.

price increase

Waweru said of the 3,700 book titles in the Orange Book, only 200 have had their prices revised upwards by between four to 10 per cent.

For instance, the cost of Secondary Chemistry for Form One, which was sold at Sh310 last year is now going for Sh345.

The Secondary Mathematics Student’s book, which was Sh660 now goes for Sh695. Primary Mathematics for Class Five, which was sold at Sh640 is now Sh710.

Kiswahili Mufti for Class Five, previously Sh522, now goes for Sh574. “Ideally, we should have increased books by 22 per cent. We have not because Kenyans are burdened,” he said.

The depreciating shilling has also stretched the cost or production. He said the book sector has experienced recession due to drastic drop in purchase of books.

“Government capitation has been at Sh1,020 per child for 12 years and was only increased by 30 per cent last year. With VAT, it means that schools can only buy fewer books with the same budget,” said Waweru.