Implementing free secondary school education, a key campaign pledge by both the Government and the Opposition, will cost about Sh60 billion.
An audit on secondary school education in 2014 pegged the maximum cost of free day school education at Sh51.1 billion. However, enrolment then was 2.1 million.
Data from the Ministry of Education show the current student enrolment is 2.5 million.
This means considering the rise in student numbers and inflation rates, the cost would rise to about Sh60 billion.
Institute of Economic Affairs CEO Kwame Owino said implementing free secondary school education is realistic as the cost involved only covers tuition and salaries.
“The cost basically takes care of tuition fees. Teachers are already taken care of. So the amount would not be as much as we would imagine,” he said, adding that boarding fees were a luxury parents would have an option about.
Currently, there are 8,592 public secondary schools. Half of these are boarding schools or institutions with a boarding wing.
The Report of the Task Force on Secondary School Fees (2014) explained day schools would be completely free if the Government paid a capitation grant of Sh23,975 per child.
This would mean the Government meets all costs of teaching and learning materials, related operational costs and lunch.
The report said under this funding option, day schools would be free but boarding schools would charge Sh33,108 per student per year.
Special needs schools would charge Sh16,704 per year, according to the report presented to President Uhuru Kenyatta by the task force led by Kilemi Mwiria.
The Government report said if parents met boarding costs, including meals, and the Government only paid for teaching and learning materials as well as other related costs, day schools would only charge a modest Sh5,861.
This means additional costs to make secondary education free would bring the total cost to slightly above Sh50 billion.
The report estimated that the cost of teaching and learning materials would be about Sh4,792 annually. The team also established the estimated average operational costs per student would be Sh13,320.
These costs would however go up once other inputs were factored.
“These include sanitary towels for needy girls, integration of ICT in secondary schools, capacity building for school managers among other costs,” read the report.
It means the cost adjustment since 2014 would raise the total amount required to implement free secondary education thanks to initiatives by the ministry.
Stakeholders cited huge financial investments, increased student enrolment and inadequate facilities as some of the challenges free secondary school education would face.
They said sealing accountability lapses, teacher staffing and a keen check on the quality of education would also be key areas that would raise the cost of free education.
Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) chairman Kahi Indimuli said the policy means 100 per cent transition of primary school children to Form One.
“Over 250,000 pupils who sit Standard Eight examinations miss Form One slots because the vacancies are not enough. What will happen when all the KCPE candidates must go to Form One?” Indimuli said.
Data from the Ministry of Education shows this year alone, there was a gap of 150,943 places in Form One. There were only 790,680 places to accommodate the 941,623 who sat Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams.
The Government is currently building an additional 2,000 classrooms to create more Form One spaces in 2018 at a cost of Sh6 billion.
A brief from the ministry shows only 63,254 more spaces will be created for next year’s intake, leaving a deficit of 78,066.
Yet data from the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) shows 972,837 candidates will sit KCPE exams this year, meaning all of them will be required to join Form One.
Secondary school heads also questioned how schools would be cushioned against delayed disbursement of capitation funds.
“Currently, schools use the little monies paid by parents to fix a few loopholes as the Government plans to remit the funds,” said Mr Indimuli.
Questions have also been raised about payment of salaries for support staff and teachers employed by boards of management.
Secondary schools boards often employ additional teachers to bridge the gap.