Schools to close early as cash crunch persists

It is now emerging that schools are opting for early closure bringing to an end Term One owing to financial crunch even as questions emerge over syllabus coverage.

The Standard has established that several secondary schools will begin closing this week as they grapple with financial challenges.

The revised education calendar shows that First Term began on January 8, 2024 and closing date was set for April 5, 2024.

This means schools are expected to close next week Friday marking 13 weeks of learning.

However, with early closure, some schools have lost up to two weeks of learning time which could see a rush against time for the students as teachers try to cover the syllabus.

Naivasha Girls Secondary School which was initially set to close on April 4 reviewed the closing date and learners are now set to break for holidays on March 28.

"There was a board meeting last week that resolved the school be closed this week as part of cost-cutting measures after the government delayed disbursement of funds," a teacher at Naivasha Girls who sought anonymity told The Standard.

The students will also get an extended holiday that will stretch for a whole month as they are set to report back for the second term on April 24.

This means the holiday period will now run for four weeks rather than the scheduled three weeks by the Ministry of Education.

A further spot check by The Standard shows that most schools within Nairobi are planning to release the students before Good Friday. This will be the case for Huruma Girls Secondary School and Jamhuri High School.

Headteachers intimated that failure by the government to release capitation has occasioned the financial crisis which has seen most schools struggle to run day-to-day operations.

The situation, principals said is worsened by failure by some parents to pay fees for their children.

In January, the National Treasury released Sh31.34 billion capitation for Term One.

Out of this, Sh4.74 billion was disbursed for free primary education, Sh7.6 billion for Junior Secondary Schools and Sh16.2 billion for free day secondary schools.

The government also released Sh2.8 billion to cater for school examination and invigilation costs.

However, this was only a fraction of the capitation the government was supposed to disburse.

Last week Basic Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang assured that the capitation will disbursed to the institutions this week.

"We have released 25 per cent… in the next 10 days we should have released the resources," he said while appearing before the National Assembly Public Accounts Committee to respond to audit queries.

Under free primary education and free day secondary education policies, the government sets aside Sh1,420 and Sh22,244 for each learner as capitation for primary and secondary schools respectively every year.

This money is supposed to be remitted termly using a 50: 30: 20 formulae.

Teachers unions have in the last two weeks raised concern over the dire situation in schools.

Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) was first to register the distress in schools over cash crunch.

Knut Secretary General Collins Oyuu, warned that school programmes may soon grind to a halt owing to delayed disbursement of Free Primary Education and Free Secondary Education funds for this year.

The union demanded the immediate disbursement of capitation funds to avert crisis in learning institutions at a time when several head teachers have decried the funding crisis which they say hampers smooth operations.

Kenya Union of Post-Primary Teachers (Kuppet) secretary general Akelo Misori expressed fear that schools might not open in second term unless the Sh54 billion owed in capitation is released. 

"I am telling you, we shall not open schools next term," Misori said last week while addressing a press briefing in Nairobi.

The unionists also opposed the recent budgetary cuts in the Ministry of Education, particularly the reduction of secondary school capitation from Sh22,224 to Sh 17,000 per learner. 

The ripple effects, Misori said, has crippled the institutions; making it hard to pay utility bills, non-teaching staff and purchase of learning materials. 

Kuppet Nyeri regional office last week also warned of possible early closure of schools over delayed disbursement of capitation by the government.

The union’s county executive secretary, Francis Wanjohi, said that head teachers were having challenges funding school operations since the government had only disbursed 25 per cent of funds out of the expected 50 per cent for First Term.

“Unfortunately, this term the Ministry of Education has only disbursed half of the money for capitation. This has caused a lot of stress to principals since they cannot afford to buy essentials to keep learners in their institutions,” Wanjohi said.