How school heads won back Sh7.6b textbook money

A parent selects second-hand textbooks from a street vendor in Nakuru town. (File, Standard)
A vigorous campaign by headteachers highlighting the gaps in the current directive to schools on delivery of textbooks saw the government yield to pressure to return the billions back to the hands of school managers.

Finer details reveal that school heads leveraged on the shortfalls of the new government policy to push for the collapse of the 2017 directive by former Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi.

The heads raised concern on oversupply of textbooks, lack of storage facilities, mismatch in students’ numbers and errors in books to drive the campaign that pushed the Ministry of Education to back down. Booksellers and some MPs were also drawn into the spirited campaign that has now paid off.

The details of the textbooks billions battle were laid bare this week when Kenya Primary Heads Association (Kepsha) and the Kenya Secondary Heads Association (Kessha) officials appeared before the National Assembly Education Committee.

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Tinderet MP Julius Melly chaired the meeting. 

The Ministry of Education has now announced a stop to mass supply of textbooks, saying the money will be used to construct and equip schools facilities.

Basic Education PS Belio Kipsang said each learner will only be issued with textbooks for their current class, contrary to the earlier practice where they moved with books of previous class to the next.

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Late deliveries

Books have been supplied to Grade 1 to Grade 3 and Standard Seven and Standard Eight. In secondary schools, the government supplied textbooks to students in Form One to Form Four. Appearing before the MPs, Kessha chairman Kahi Indimuli lifted the lid with revelations that none of the candidate classes had received any copy. “We are worried about how the candidates will pass examinations because even now if the books are released they may not make good use of them because examinations are near,” said Indimuli. He tabled a Kessha report that listed 14 gaps occasioned by the government strategy, among them late delivery, defective books, unsupplied course books and learning materials not aligned to the syllabus.

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The report said some textbooks have low quality cover pages that reduced the three-year shelf life to only one.

“There are also cases of data mismatch between National Education Information Management System (Nemis) and the delivery of books, which has led to oversupply,” said the report on the government policy to supply textbooks in public secondary schools.

It further says the new system has restricted choices of the books as the single sourcing by the ministry “tied the hands” of subject specialists from picking varieties from the Orange Book.

Other issues raised by Kessha are errors in books, lack of storage facilities, lack of reference materials, lack of clear policy and directive on lost, damaged or vandalised books and the unpredictable schedule of delivery.

Primary school heads also tore into the policy, saying they were never involved in its formulation. Nicholas Gathemia, the primary school heads national chairman, said most schools are required to make arrangements to pick the books from sub-county offices without budgetary provisions.

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Gathemia told MPs to push for a policy review that would empower school heads to procure the books.

Overall, Kessha and Kepsha denied previous reports that under the previous distribution regime, books delivered to schools found their way back to bookshop shelves.

“There was a wrong notion then that principals are colluding to inflate books prices yet they were spelt in the orange book. We made orders based on the orange books,” said Indimuli. The meeting in Parliament followed a petition by the Kenya Booksellers and Stationers Association who claimed that the directive pushed many Kenyans out of employment. The petition signed by 15 members of the association said majority of schools had already attained a book ration of 1:1 and did not need any more books.

“The new model has caused oversupply of textbooks in secondary schools to the tune of 300 per cent due to a replication of the books supplied in 2018,” reads the petition.

No books yet

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The booksellers also claim class four to six learners have never received any text book from the government arrangement, and that class seven and eight have only been supplied with four books.

“Petitioners pray that National Education Committee recommend that the ministry considers its policy on books distribution… to one that ensures that micro, small and medium enterprises accessed government procurement opportunities in accordance with the provisions of the Public Procurement and Disposals Act,” reads the petition.

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