Nairobi has more pressing issues than feeding program, ex-county education minister says

Janet Ouko during an interview at Spice FM on Thursday, September 28. [Screen Grab, Standard]

When counties were rolling out their Financial Year 2023/2024 budget, Nairobians were taken by surprise to see that the school feeding program in the county got the lion’s share of Sh1.7 billion.

This unlike in the previous governments was the first time a new project got more funding than other existing sectors including health.

According to Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja, the decision behind the funding was aimed at increasing school enrollment in primary schools.

However, experts believe that that was a wrong move as the County has more pressing issues in its education sector.

Speaking on Spice FM on Thursday, September 28, former Nairobi County education minister Janet Ouko faulted the decision by the governor saying that the Sh1.7 billion could have been used to address urgent issues first.

Ouko averred that schools in the county lack enough classrooms and learning equipment which should be a priority.

“Nairobi county has 85 wards. Out of the 85, ten do not have even one public school. Others in one classroom, you will find over 100 students. The county is focusing on feeding those in schools instead of first increasing the number of classrooms and schools so that as you aim to increase school enrollment, you are sure there are enough facilities to accommodate them,” she said.

According to her, if a child pays five shillings for food but before admission the parent is asked to pay over Sh10,000 so that the school can buy a desk and other equipment to be able to accommodate the child, how then is that beneficial to the parent?

The education rights advocate noted that the government keeps on failing to address urgent matters but looks for short-term projects so as to paint a good picture for themselves.

Most of these short-term projects she says are personal projects that are picked by leaders for their own benefit and not for the benefit of those who put them in office.

According to Ouko, the feeding program; Dishi na County is a good project but being implemented when there are a lot of pressing issues still in existence in the education sector.

Her remarks come months after Finance Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung’u presided over the signing of the Nairobi County School Feeding deal between Education CS Machogu and Governor Sakaja.

The deal will see that the program receives funding for the next three years.

Ouko in July had challenged the program in court but her petition was declined by High Court Justice Mugure Thande who said she [Ouko] did not exactly show its disadvantages.

However, she still maintains that the decision to introduce the feeding program does not address the grave issues in the education sector in the county