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Sh24 billion too little too late for schools, say education officials

Kamiti Secondary school students  studying in class on August 19, 2022. [Silas Otieno, Standard]

Financial crisis in public schools may worsen even as the government released Sh24 billion capitation money on Thursday.

It is now emerging that the money released may not be adequate as schools are yet to receive money for first and second term.

The last disbursement to schools was done three months ago, in January. School heads argue that the money released is merely 20 per cent of 2022 capitation for third term.

The head teachers argue that no money has been released to cater for this year’s first and second term.

The confusion on how much schools are owed, lack of clarity on what percentage of capitation has released per child is adding into the financial crisis in the public schools.

It also emerged that the Sh24 billion released yesterday was Sh4 billion less than what Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu this week assured MPs would be released to schools.

Appearing in Parliament on Wednesday to answer questions during plenary session, Machogu said that schools would receive Sh28 billion.

But a dispatch from the government said that only Sh24 billion was released, with a note that the money would hit schools accounts between Thursday and Monday next week.

According to the disbursement schedule, secondary schools would receive Sh15.6 billion to cater for Free Day Secondary Schools (FDSE).

Another Sh4.6 billion was sent to support Free Primary Education (FPE) and at least Sh3.8 billion will go to Junior Secondary School capitation.

Even though the funds were seen as a huge relief to heads of schools after a long wait for the money, it emerged that the effort was too little too late.

The money released yesterday, came four weeks after schools opened for second term. It also  comes after the last disbursement to schools was made in January to cover for 2022 debts.

Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (KESSHA) chairman Kahi Indimuli and his Primary School Heads Association (KEPSHA) counterpart Johnson Nzioka said that the moment school heads are stressed.

“I am aware of schools that have not been able to pay workers’ salaries since the last term, around February,” said Indimuli, who is also principal of Machakos School.

He said schools are now under the mercy of suppliers and risk being taken to court over the huge debts.

“We must appreciate the many suppliers who provide services to the schools. They have endured a lot. We fear for the day the suppliers will stop supporting our schools because of nonpayment of their money. Then schools will crumble,” Indimuli said.

Nzioka said the government should not pretend to have funded schools without giving details and formula of funding.

“For now I can say the government has not given us money. I do not even know what percentage this money is. Given the number of learners we have of 12 million in primary schools, the money is too little. This will put us in more confusion,” Nzioka said.

Heads of school who also spoke to The Standard said that huge chunk of the Sh24 billion will be used to service the debts rather than to assist in operational expenses for the term.

Indimuli said, the last disbursement schools received was on January 26, 2023 and expected the government to give way on how schools will mitigate the expected balance.

He said the little funds disbursed, belatedly, will still affect the operations of schools.

Indimuli said that the money has been released without a circular explaining how the funds should be utilised, further creating more confusion.

‘‘We don’t know the percentage released per child and the vote they have been allocated. The biggest challenge will be money for operations is not enough. Schools will continue having problems,’’ Indimuli said.

Ideally, the government is expected to release capitation money in the ratio of 50:30: 20 for first, second and third term respectively.

But this formular seems not to have been honoured with money only sent to schools haphazardly.

Nzioka noted that as it stands the government is basically just offsetting the debt carried forward from last year.

‘‘Last term we received only 20 percent to cover last year. We were expecting another 50 percent, but the money does not translate to that figure we were owed for last term,’’ Nzioka added.

Nzioka further said, despite the government promising to disburse Sh9.6 billion to the Junior Secondary, only Sh6 billion has been given to the new set up.

“We were promised Sh4, 000 from the Sh15, 050 budgeted to the JSS will go to the construction of laboratories. Last term we got Sh4, 078 towards other vote heads. We expected a considerate funding according to the demands we have,” Nzioka added.

Indimuli and Johnson Nzioka, now say that majority of schools incurred a lot of debts in the last term.

They further say that more debts were accrued during the four weeks since schools opened, due to delayed funding.

‘‘It affects our operations when you get below the expected ratio. We don’t know if the remaining balance will be factored during the next financial year or it will be treated as a bad debt,’’ said Indimuli.

He blamed the government for withholding money meant for schools saying such money schools end up losing them once the operations end.

“Once the activities are over, they forget. The government never funds schools backwards. We need to go back to the former funding model on a termly basis. We don’t operate in quarters like other government departments,” he added.

Special Needs Education chairman Peter Sitienei blamed the government for not factoring in the category saying they have been neglected for long.

“I urge the government to identify SNE and solve our problems through the Directorate of Special Needs. We expect grants for two terms which they have not distributed to us,” Sitienei said.

He pointed out that teaching staff and subordinates have gone for more than seven months without receiving their salaries.

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