The cost of educating a child in Kenya remains one of the biggest drains on family finances. The Kenyan society places high premium on a good education, hence the pressure on parents to do all they can to ensure good education for their children in anticipation of dividends in the form of high-paying jobs. Consequently, caring parents will stop at nothing to give their children the best education they can afford, and this sometimes involves selling family property like land and livestock.
The downside of this is that it has landed many families into the stranglehold of poverty. The promise of free secondary education by both Jubilee and the National Super Alliance in the run-up to the August 8 General Election was therefore received well by families weighed down by the burden of school fees.
Currently, in efforts to boost literacy, the Government pays capitation for secondary school learners at Sh12,870 per student.
In the 2015/16 financial year, the Government set aside Sh33.7 billion for free secondary education. This is projected to rise to Sh39.4 billion in the 2016/17 financial year. Kenya has 8,592 public secondary schools and 1,350 private schools. If the Government comes through on the promise of free secondary school education, the current infrastructure might not accommodate the expected surge in numbers of those seeking knowledge.
This is something that must be considered to avoid overstretching the resources when free secondary school education rolls out in January 2018. A World Bank report, ‘Learning to realise education promise 2017’, estimates, and correctly so, that free education will improve livelihoods in many homesteads across the country.
Divested of the burden of paying fees that averages Sh55,000 on the lower side, the savings could be channeled elsewhere; into proper healthcare, better housing and a good diet, things that remain out of reach for many.
With this, poverty eradication, for a long time a façade, could become reality as families find they do not need to spend every little penny they make on paying school fees.
As the World Bank report points out, this equates to giving families monthly stipends. If for nothing else, this is enough reason why political temperatures must cool down to make this a reality.