Education costs in Kenya fly in the face of local and global targets

As the pioneer Junior Secondary School (JSS) classes began in line with the new Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) curriculum, the Ministry of Education gave guidelines on how the transition should be handled, especially on instructional materials, infrastructural development, levies and uniforms to learners.

The government introduced the CBC in 2017. CBC emphasises nurturing of learners' potential, national values, and integration of science, technology and innovation, and seeks to ensure that the skills taught in educational institutions match the requirements of the industry.

This would facilitate the acquisition of 21st Century knowledge, skills and competencies, values and character development, patriotism and global citizenship, with positive implications for the quality of human capital.

Education reforms in Kenya are aligned with global commitments on education, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the African Union's Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA 16-25).

The need for a structured mechanism of ensuring a smooth and seamless transition from Primary School (Grade 6) to JSS cannot be gainsaid. The development of guidelines was a culmination of successful collaboration amongst various basic education sub-sector organisations, which demonstrates synergy and co-creation among critical education actors involved in the implementation of the CBC.

Recently, Knut, in collaboration with Education International Africa, launched a research finding on the privatisation of education. That, in realising Chapter 4 article 43(1) (f), education in Kenya and other countries of the world is extremely expensive to a level many citizens cannot afford it in spite of the fact that there exist global, regional, national and local commitments to make education a basic need that can be accessed by everyone. Are we privatising education unknowingly?

Grade 4 pupils in class at Royal Metropolis Academy in Nyamira County. [Stanley Ongwae, Standard]

The Education CS has cautioned institutions of learning, through the proposed boards of management, against exploitation and extortion from unsuspecting parents in the name of facilitating students' teaching and learning processes.

The CS said the JSS's pioneer grade 7 will be catered for through the capitation system that has been in existence since the introduction of Free Primary Education and the Subsidised Secondary Education programmes.

Each will receive Sh15,000 capitation. The government has also provided over 1.5 million textbooks to be shared among more than 28,000 public primary schools hosting JSS across the country. Parents are therefore required to only school buy uniforms and cater for the boarding costs for those who are in boarding schools.

What we hear today are complaints from parents and guardians over exorbitant charges for uniforms and other requirements.

A quick survey by our research department indicated that parents are parting with over Sh40,000 in the name of uniforms, among other goods. This is absurd. How can uniforms cost more than the school fee levied?

Then there is this requirement to purchase textbooks and related appliances that the government has already supplied to schools. The most expensive commodities in shops today are textbooks.

Are these books different from those being supplied by the government? Are they bringing different values and outcomes from the intended ones by the framers and designers of the new curriculum?

Parents are crying out here. They have the burning desire to take their sons and daughters to school, but the cost is unbearable. Is there something the government knows that it is not telling its citizens about the cost of education? The government should develop investigative structures to ensure someone somewhere is not fleecing poor parents of their hard-earned cash.

When the Education CS merely warns and leaves it at that, it means nothing to the nation. We want to see cartels in the sector go down. A parent in Busia, Lamu, Mandera or Kajiado is waiting to see any Kenyan who contravened the government directive on excess levies, nabbed.

Perhaps this will give confidence and meaning to the already frustrated Grade 7 parent. Education is becoming too expensive.