Scramble for textbook billions

Kenya Primary School Heads Association (Kepsha) Chairman Nicholas Gathemia when he appeared before the National Assembly Education Committee on the distribution of text books to public schools at Parliament on Thursday on July 11 2019. [Boniface Okendo,Standard]

Head teachers want to take control of the Sh7.6 billion allocation made by the Government for purchasing textbooks.

Currently, it is the Ministry of Education that directly procures the books.

In presentations made to Parliament yesterday, primary and secondary school heads pitched a strong case on why they should take charge of the kitty.

They were represented by their two lobbies - Kenya Secondary School Heads Association and the Kenya Primary Schools Head Teachers Association.

They also want to be allowed to take control in making decisions on which of the books in the "Orange Book" are suitable for pupils.

The "Orange Book" contains a list of approved textbooks for primary and secondary schools complete with their price tags.

While making their case, the school heads cited instances where books have not been supplied to some schools while others have excess books.

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The school heads said many gaps existed in the current system of supply. They pleaded with MPs to allow them to purchase the books.

“Books should be procured at the school level and direct deliveries made. Such direct deliveries will allow for inspection and verification of books by an inspection and acceptance committee,” said Kahi Indimuli, the Kenya Secondary School Heads Association Chairman Kahi Indimuli.

Mr Indimuli said no set book had been sent to schools despite the Ministry of Education issuing a circular asking parents and heads of schools not to buy.

Nicholas Gathemia, the primary school heads national chairman, said most schools were required to make arrangements to pick the books from sub-county offices.

“The School Instructional and Materials Committee was in the past mandated with vetting suppliers before books are purchased," said Mr Gathemia, adding: "We strongly recommend that this responsibility be given back to the committee for effective and efficient supply of textbooks.”

Parliament's Education Committee Chairman Julius Melly said MPs were concerned about the lack of books in some schools. “This is an issue that we must soberly address. Before the policy allowing the ministry to directly purchase the books, booksellers accused you school heads of not paying them on time. What has changed?" posed Mr Melly.

Kilome MP Thaddeus Nzambia wondered whether the heads had made a proposal to the Ministry on the best way the supply question could be handled.

Stakeholders' meeting

“We need a stakeholders' meeting to hear out the best way to supply books because parents are now even purchasing exercise books,” said Mr Nzambia.

The ministry defended the policy allowing it to directly procure the books, saying since the policy came into effect in January 2017, the Government had only spent Sh7.6 billion to supply textbooks to selected classes in all public schools.

The money is nearly three times less what it would have cost the taxpayer under the old procurement procedures.

The ministry said the current policy had locked out cartels that colluded with school heads to siphon billions of shillings from the kitty meant to purchase the books.

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Head teachersGovernmentTextbooksParliament