Private schools miss out on 33 million State funded textbooks

Head teachers from various schools purchase text books for their schools from Targeter Publishers exhibition stand during the 43rd Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (KESSHA) National Delegates Conference in Mombasa. [Gideon Maundu/Standard]
The government is working to help private schools access text books at subsidised cost.

Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang told the National Assembly’s Education committee that is chaired by Julius Melly the ministry had reached an agreement with the Private Schools Association.

“We know that the children are not private. We have met with the private schools and agreed to supply them with the books at the same cost we purchased for public schools,” said Dr Kipsang.

The PS said the books, which would be priced at an average cost of Sh189, would enable private schools to benefit from an initiative that seeks to achieve a 1:1 textbook to learner ratio.

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In January, the Government bought 33 million textbooks from publishers worth Sh7.5 billion. The books were printed, published and distributed to public schools courtesy of a Sh20 billion World Bank credit.

Although most of the publishers have distributed the textbooks allocated to them, the PS told the committee the country lacked the resources that would allow it to produce millions of books on short notice.

“The initiative of distribution of textbooks was not devoid of challenges. During the printing of the required textbooks, it was evident that in Kenya, we do not have a high printing capacity. This was mitigated by upgrading the equipment used by the local printers,” said Belio.

Committee member Thaddeus Nzambia questioned why the Government had not thought it wise to print the books in India or other countries that have the capacity to do the work on a large scale.

“It is even cheaper if the books are printed outside and shipped into the country than giving our local publishers the contract and we know they don’t have the capacity. They also print outside,” he said.

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The book distribution initiative, also known as the Secondary Education Quality Improvement Project (SEQIP), targets 600,000 learners in standards Seven and Eight and from forms One to Four in 78,552 primary and 2,147 secondary schools countrywide.

According to Kipsang, SEQIP first targeted Science, Mathematics and English subjects, but the Government added Kiswahili due to its status as both the national and official language.

In Phase One of the textbooks distribution project, secondary schools were supplied with English, Kiswahili, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology textbooks, while English, Kiswahili, Mathematics and Science textbooks were distributed to primary schools.

And to safeguard the materials from copyright infringement, the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, in liaison with the Education ministry, put a GoK Coat of Arms and ‘Not for Sale’ caveat on all printed pages in the approved textbooks.

Inspection teams were assigned to the identified publishers, which included Kenya Literature Bureau, Oxford University Press, Longhorn Publishers, Moran East Africa and East African Educational Publishers.

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