Bring public schools' funds crisis to an end

Learners in a digital literacy class at Kawangare Primary School. [Boniface Gikandi, Standard]

After the disruptions caused by Covid-19 in 2020, the education sector continues to face uncertainty due to erratic disbursement of capitation funds. In 2020, schools remained closed for 10 months as a result of containment measures taken by the government to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Normalcy returned to the school calendar this year, but late disbursement of capitation fees and the after-effects of Covid-19 threaten the smooth running of schools across the country. Needless to say, education is key to all aspects of life, hence, the government has no option but to pull all the stops to ensure seamless learning.

Under Free Primary Education and Free Day Secondary Education policies, the government sets aside Sh1,420 and Sh22,244 for each learner as capitation funds for primary and secondary schools respectively. Ideally, this money is supposed to be remitted termly using a 50: 30: 20 formulae.

Unfortunately, the government has failed to stick to this mode, preferring to send the money on a quarterly basis. The downside of this is that most school principals are now unable to plan well, remit statutory deductions and pay non-teaching staff their salaries.

These delays risk exposing school managements to litigation over non-payment of salaries and failure to honour their side of the bargain with suppliers. Already, like in some of our higher learning institutions, some schools are likely to be slapped with heavy penalties for late remittances of statutory deductions, especially to NSSF and NHIF.

It is also likely that this erratic and late disbursement of capitation funds will affect the planning necessary for the upcoming national examinations. This should never have happened in the first place.

Basic Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang recently made a commitment that Sh16 billion of the outstanding Sh29 billion will be paid to schools by today. While this is welcome, the right thing for the government to always do is ensure that capitation funds are remitted in good time and in the manner prescribed to enable schools run without unnecessary distractions.