Five million pupils are missing from schools' data

Primary schools are yet to account for some five million pupils who cost the Government Sh7 billion annually. [Standard]

Primary schools are yet to account for some five million pupils who cost the Government Sh7 billion annually.

Although official Government data has often put the number of primary school pupils at 10 million, only 5.2 million have been captured in an electronic registration system rolled out nationally since January, last year.

Each year, the Government allocates Sh1,420 to each pupil, and over the years, authorities have relied on enrollment figures presented by head teachers to work out subsidy wired to 23,000 primary schools. There have been suspicions of inflation of enrollment figures but which has been hard to prove given the manual documentation.

Head teachers have cited lack of birth certificates, which is mandatory to list a pupil in the National Education Information Management System (Nemis), among the reasons for those who have not registered.

But authorities have questioned whether that alone is the reason for the huge discrepancy, and some officials have pointed it is unlikely that the 5 million missing pupils can be accounted for once data for the months of June to August 1 is aggregated.

The one month window was facilitated under a rapid results initiative in conjunction with Interior ministry which oversees issuance of birth certificates. 

It emerged yesterday that the initiative launched by the Government to fast-track registration of more than 1.3 million children until August 1 flopped.

“The system only worked for one week and after that we were told that the printing machines for the birth certificates had failed. We are now stranded with children sent home to look for the certificates,” said Nicholas Maiyo, the national parents' association chairman.

Primary school heads were yesterday planning to petition the Ministry of Education to provide an alternative entry into the Nemis system to avoid locking out innocent children from benefiting from cash disbursements when it goes live in primary schools.

“We have experienced serious challenges with the birth certificates. We raised complaints and they allowed us to use pupils admission numbers which the system has also rejected,” said Nicholas Gathemia, Kenya primary school heads association national chairman.

However, officials who spoke to The Standard in confidence, said it was unlikely that the entire five million children lacked birth certificates.

It is feared that the Nemis system could also expose the number of ghost pupils through which public funds may have been lost over the years.

“If it has taken the ministry about one year to register only half of the targeted number, how sure are we that even with birth certificates, schools will raise the remaining half?” asked a senior Ministry of Education official.

The official said some head teachers could be making an excuse of birth certificates to hide the rot on data misrepresentation.

Gathemia yesterday said his office could not speak authoritatively on ghost learners until the listing was complete.

“As we speak, we cannot comment on that because many schools claim they have not registered to the optimum,” he said.

He said his office had already sent out word to all primary schools representatives to furnish exact data of the mess.

“We want to ask the ministry to give us an alternative to birth certificates so that we do not disadvantage any child,” said Gathemia.

Basic Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang yesterday said the ministry had already issued a directive on registration of children.

“We asked them to create a portal where those without birth certificates can be registered and a print out generated to inform decisions,” said Dr Kipsang.

It, however, emerged that secondary schools have managed to register nearly 100 per cent of the expected target.

Data shows that so far, some 2.9 million students have been listed out of a target of about 3 million. The data is used to disburse capitation of Sh22, 244 per student per year.

Ministry suspended

For primary schools, the ministry suspended the use of Nemis data to disburse capitation until January next year.

This means that primary schools are set to face major crisis when schools open for first term next year if they fail to capture all the learners under their institutions.

With only four months left to the end of the year, it means that up to 5 million children in primary schools could miss out on free education cash disbursements if the Government adopts Nemis in January.

Currently, Nemis system is used in Form One admissions, accessing Government medical insurance cover for secondary school students and disbursing Free Day Secondary Education funds.

Data seen by The Standard reveals that in primary listing, Kakamega County is leading in enrollment with some 191,431 learners captured. Bungoma has registered 169,803, Nakuru 188,699, Kisii 167,544, Kitui 164,131, Meru 163,899, Machakos 154,817 and Makueni 154,028.

Other counties that have registered huge enrollments are Kisumu (142,996), Siaya (133,512), Kiambu (114,781), Murang'a (109,879), Homa Bay (121,235), Migori  (120,940), and Nairobi with 119,955.

While launching the Nemis system, Kipsang said it would have many positive benefits in planning and prudent financial management.

The PS said the system would enable the ministry track reporting and enrollment in schools under the 100 per cent transition rate.

He said the system will provide accurate details of the actual number of students per school that will facilitate accurate disbursement of the Free Day Secondary Education (FDSE) programme.