Headteachers running out of options as school funds dwindle

Maturu Primary School Mathematics teacher Sarah Mwenje takes class seven students through a learning session in Lugari Sub-county in Kakamega County on November 9, 2021. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Capitation woes in both public primary and secondary schools continue to frustrate heads and principals. Schools are grinding to a halt, with most programmes and essential school activities affected by lack of funds.

Schools opened for the second term two weeks late due to heavy rains that caused floods, displaced many people and destroyed infrastructure, thus affecting movement from one place to the other. An announcement by principals through the Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association, threatening to close schools is a matter of concern. However, head teachers and principals are left with very few options, which include closing down schools before the scheduled date. 

Schools are expected to receive a capitation of Sh22,000 for each learner. This amount was reduced to Sh17,000 and no one knows where the deficit of Sh5,000 will be sourced from. Equally, what was remitted in the second term was Sh8,300 out of the expected Sh11,000. Sh530 was retained by the government for procurement and purchase of instructional materials, Sh2,000 was retained for infrastructure development and Sh750 was deducted for the EduAFYA programme which is dysfunctional due to realignments in the Social Health Insurance Fund. This leaves schools with a paltry Sh4,950 to run the rest of the school programmes within the term.

Capitation amounts are determined by established numbers of learners in schools through the National Education Management Information System. Unfortunately, the 2024 capitation was based on data of the Form 4 class of 2023 and not the 2024 Form 1 class. The 2023 Form 4 learners were 899,453 while Form 1 learners in 2024 are 1,400,000. This leads to a difference of 500,547 learners who have not been budgeted for by the Ministry of Education. So, even if 100 per cent capitation was given to schools without addressing the aspect of correct data, schools would still have had a deficit.

Lack of funds in schools, due to the delayed release of capitation, the deficit in budgetary allocations and, or, reduced amounts has affected the institutions negatively. Schools are struggling to buy food for learners, pay workers, pay electricity and water bills and the teachers hired by boards.

Some schools have also not been able to pay their suppliers. Most suppliers have been pushing the administrators to pay them in vain. Most suppliers are not willing to engage with the learning institutions because they cannot trust them anymore.

Some suppliers have already dragged principals to court. This is unfortunate and embarrassing. A study conducted by Knut in June 2023 indicated that six out of every 10 teachers who qualify to head secondary schools fear taking up the responsibility due to funds-related challenges. This was confirmed by the Teachers Service Commission when it advertised headship positions in July 2023 but teachers declined to apply. The problem has caused teachers mental health illnesses such as depression and even pushed them into using drugs and alcohol to try and suppress the pressure. The general effect of the back and forth between suppliers and school administrators leads to anxiety and tension in schools.

Day schools are the most affected. A quick survey conducted by Knut to establish how schools cope with inadequate funds in April 2024 found out that seven out of every 10 schools send learners home for school fees whenever they lack funds due to delayed disbursement of capitation. As a result, the quality of education is affected and learners get low grades in the end.

Knut has been involved in the capitation conversation and given its thoughts several times, including the proposal to have the funds released on a 50, 30, 20 per cent basis every term. However, that does not stop the union from reminding the Education ministry that the sector is not on the right trajectory on matters funding and that the existing protocols must be addressed. The ministry should ensure it gets involved in the budget-making process to advice the government on funding for the sector.

Disbursement of funds should also be timely and consistent so that heads of institutions do not get stranded. In case of delays, the ministry should give updates on the reasons for the same and communicate when action would be taken. This would help to build confidence in both suppliers and school heads.

We have confidence in the leadership of the Ministry of Education and trust they will ensure that our teachers do not drift into depression due to mismanagement of capitation.