Irony of book shortages despite excess supplies

Headteachers select textbooks for their schools at a past conference in Mombasa. (File, Standard)
An estimated 700,000 students in public schools scheduled to sit their exams in four months are yet to receive their literature and fasihi set books.

Also affected is an equal number of students currently in Third Form who are supposed to have been reading the books since the beginning of this year in readiness for their final examination next year.

The delay by the Ministry of Education to supply these books, which were supposed to have been distributed last year when the current Fourth Form students were in Third Form, has forced parents to buy the books for their students. 

The two subjects are mandatory for all Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exam candidates.

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A cross section of parents we talked to complained how they have been forced to buy the books, on the advice of the schools because the government had not lived up to its promise.

“What can you do as a parent? You cannot just watch your child waste precious time as you wait for the government to bring the books it promised the students. That is why I agreed to buy,” said Sammy Njuguna, a parent.

This is happening at a time when the government has oversupplied books in other subjects.

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Investigations by the Sunday Standard found that schools are suffering from what some education officers jokingly described as a “good problem” because they no longer had space for surplus books.

No choice

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Every KCSE candidate was to receive three literature set books, which were to be selected form a list of five that have been approved by the Ministry of Education.

The books are Blossoms of the Savanna by H Ole Kulet and Henrik Ibsen’s The Doll House, which are compulsory and then select The Inheritance (Francis Imbuga), The Pearl (John Steinbeck) or Memories Lost and Other Stories (Edited by Chris Wanjala).

In fasihi, the students are supposed to study Chozi la Heri (Asumpta Matei), Kigogo by Pauline Kea andTumbo Lisilojaa by Alifa Chokio and Dumu Kayanda.

Secondary school teachers said they had no choice but to tell the parents to buy these books because the ministry had prohibited them from buying the materials, as they were to be supplied with other textbooks.

In a circular dated October 25 last year, Education Permanent Secretary Belio Kipsang said: “The ministry will supply English Literature and Fasihi set books to Form Three and Form Four students in all public secondary schools in 2019.”

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The circular further read: “School principals are therefore advised not to procure the set books for the two classes. Principals are advised to ensure that data provided for the same is accurate.”

The government would have spent at least Sh2.9 billion to supply the books. However, this cost was distributed to parents as they had to part with a minimum of Sh2,100 for the six books.

The Education PS was not available to comment on the issue, but senior education officers, who cannot be named because they said the matter was too sensitive, confirmed the books have not been delivered.

Kenya Publishers Association Chairman Lawrence Njagi said the distribution of set books for the two subjects was long overdue.

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