Needy learners on the brink over empty NG-CDF bursary coffers

Treasury CS Njuguna Ndungu. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Learners from poor families who depend on bursaries to pay fees are at risk of dropping out of school due to the current delay by the National Treasury to disburse National Government-Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF) funds.

Members of Parliament, who are the patrons of NG-CDF boards, claim their hands are tied and admit that the future of thousands of learners who depend on bursaries is uncertain.

This is happening as some schools have begun sending learners home to collect school fees.

The Standard has established among the worst affected are orphans who have been relying solely on bursaries to support their education and students in day schools.

In the Mount Kenya region, parents complained that their efforts to secure bursaries have been futile after they were informed by NG-CDF staff that there is no money to support them at the moment.

Pending applications

In Murang’a County, at the Kiharu constituency offices, parents were yet to know the fate of their applications for financial support of their children in secondary schools.

Peter Karoki from Mugoiri ward said he had only managed to pay Sh5,000 as school fees for his son but had been hoping to get a boost from the NG-CDF bursary.

“I am in a state of confusion. I know my son will be sent back if the Treasury fails to remit allocation to NG-CDF,” said Mr Karoki.

Esther Mwangi from Gachocho village, in Kigumo, said she is traumatised over the delay by the National Treasury to disburse funds to NG-CDF.

“The government should urgently release the bursary kitty for the interest of the students from vulnerable families, who are at risk of being sent away,” said Mwangi.

Pauline Wanjiru, a single mother of three from Skuta in Nyeri, complained that she had not received the bursary for his son, who is admitted at Giakanja Boys'.

Parents in Nyanza and the Western region told The Standard that they are uncertain about the future of their children's education without bursaries from NG-CDF.

They claimed bursaries from other sources, including counties, were like a drop in the ocean and had attracted strong competition, consequently locking out many needy cases.

According to Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet), Vihiga branch Secretary General Sabala Inyeni, the National Treasury should hasten the NG-CDF disbursement to save millions of needy students who depend on the fund for fees.

He said school heads were worried that due to the lack of bursaries and scholarships offered by NG-CDF, many activities would be derailed.

Gentrix Kalayi, a parent at Chandumba Secondary School, is fearful that her Form Four son would miss crucial lessons, noting the boy has relied on CDF sponsorship right from Form One.

Johnson Wabuti, the KUPPET chair in Kakamega, said the delayed disbursement of NG-CDF, which majorly goes towards settling education costs and improving infrastructure in schools, was a disservice.

He said thousands of students who failed to clear fee balances had been sent back home to bring parents to explain how they plan to settle the arrears.

But Western Region Director of Education Jared Obiero warned school heads against sending home learners over school fees, insisting that capitation money was already in schools' bank accounts.

Speaking at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology last week, Mr Obiero said the Ministry of Education has not increased tuition fees, urging teachers to work within the stipulated fees cap.

“I have instructed my officers to monitor schools that will overcharge parents during these hardship moments and disciplinary actions will be taken against those found culpable,” he added.

In Kisumu, some learners are yet to report to school after failing to secure bursaries and scholarships.

James Otieno, who joined Rotary Vocational Training Centre last year through sponsorship by the county government, said they were sent home yesterday for lack of fees.

"We were asked to either acquire bursaries from the CDF offices or pay money directly into the school account before we're allowed back in," said Otieno.

His visit to NG-CDF offices in Kisumu East did not bear any fruit after they were told there was no money.

Abwao Secondary School Principal Daniel Aloka said they have not received money from the government in terms of fees and bursaries from any source, making it hard to run the school.

In the Rift Valley region, learners waiting for NG-CDF bursaries claimed their prospects of staying in school are slim because of lack of school fees.

Maryanne Chepkurui, 14, a Form Two student at Manga Secondary School, faces the risk of dropping out due to a Sh15,000 fee balance.

Chepkurui's aunt, Nelly Chemutai, said she does not know where to turn to for support since she has four children of her own whom she can hardly support.

“I became Chepkurui's guardian when the girl's mother succumbed to alcoholism driven by poverty,” she said

Christine Chumba, the Principal of Kipsigis Girls' High School, said like many other schools, they are grappling with financial strains due to delays by the Treasury in releasing NG-CDF funds for bursaries and infrastructural support.

"The school has accumulated debts amounting to a staggering Sh6 million,” she said.

Chesumei MP Paul Biego said he was set to launch an Education sponsorship programme for day scholars, but it will have to wait as they push the Treasury to release funds.

Paul Rotich, KUPPET Secretary Nandi branch, called for harmonisation of all government bursary programmes to ensure that more needy children get support for their education.

“There are three government education bursary programmes, including NG-CDF, county funds, and national government funds. There are also other players including financial institutions. All these bursaries need to be harmonised and run from a centralised place so that more children benefit,” said Rotich.

This came as Naivasha MP Jane Kihara admitted that failure by the Treasury to release funds to NG-CDF had affected tens of students seeking bursaries to join secondary schools.

According to Kihara, the constituency had thousands of students in need of bursaries.

She noted that this had been worsened by the harsh economic times that had affected many families.

Speaking during a session with beneficiaries of Elimu Scholarship Programme in Naivasha, the MP called on donors to assist students who did not benefit from the bursary.

In the Coast region, a week after the start of the 2024 education calendar, a secondary school in Kilifi County sent 200 students home due to fee arrears.

A teacher at the school said the affected students are those who depend on bursaries from the NG-CDF.

Fee arrears

Splinter Buluku, a senior teacher at Takaungu Secondary, said the 200 students had huge fee arrears.

He said the school, which has a population of 400 students, will be forced to send another 150 students home if bursaries from the NG-CDF will not have been disbursed by then.

Ganze MP Kazungu Tungule described the delay in the disbursement of the NG-CDF as "an extremely unfortunate state of affairs." 

[Reports by Antony Gitonga, Nikko Tanui, Boniface Gikandi, Purity Mwangi, Anne Atieno, Sharon Owino, Brian Kisanji, Benard Lusigi, Nemiah Okwemba, Marion Kithi, Edward Kosut, Osinde Obare and Titus Too]