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Schools: We’ve no choice but to send pupils home

EDUCATION
By - | June 6th 2012

By AUGUSTINE ODUOR

A major crisis has hit President Kibaki’s free education pet project over the release of Sh11.3 billion to public schools.

Five weeks after schools opened for the second term this year head teachers say they have been forced to run schools on their pocket money.

The school heads said school programmes have stalled because they have run out of learning materials and suppliers have suspended deliveries until their Sh4 billion debt is paid.

Pressed by the anxiety from their members, teacher unions last week issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Government and threatened mass action starting this Friday.

But the Treasury that is supposed to release the cash stayed put and maintained that no money would be availed until after the next Budget.

This comes even as the publishers and booksellers association said they will join teacher unions on the streets to demand the release of the cash.

Treasury PS Joseph Kinyua told Education that they do not have the mandate to access the Exchequer funds until Parliament asks them to do so.

“This means the next time we shall access the funds is after the Budget. So there is no cash until after two weeks,” he said.

Consistent delays

But even as the Treasury pointed at Parliament, the ministry of Education seemed to accuse Treasury for failing to release the cash.

Education minister Mutula Kilonzo accused it of creating the impasse. He said once education stakeholders agreed on capitation from the time free education was launched, the cash must be availed because it is ring-fenced.

Kilonzo spoke as it emerged that for the last three years treasury has been allocating insufficient funds towards the free education programme.

A letter by PS George Godia last week to the PS Kinyua reveals a major shortfall in budgetary allocation of about Sh11.3 billion. He said the shortfall is due to the change in the disbursement mode of 30:20:50 to 50:30:20 in terms one, two and three respectively which took place in 2010/2011.

Prof Godia also cites the annual increase in student population from 1.4 million in 2009/2010 financial year to 1.7 million in 2012.

In his letter, the PS argues the additional funds required to fully cater for capitation for term two 2012 alone is Sh9.5 billion for secondary schools and some Sh1.8 billion for primary schools.

But Kilonzo said the impasse that has hit schools is uncalled for.

“What one needs to do is to cross-check the figures and send the cash. But you cannot keep that money away from children. There is nothing to negotiate about this,” he said.

But even as confusion marred the release of the cash, the Kenya National Union of Teachers and Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers turned their blazing guns to the ministry and asked teachers to prepare to send learners home.

Knut Secretary-General Okuta Osiany and chairman Wilson Sossion said they will ask teachers not to keep children in school beggining Friday.

Kuppet Secretary-General Akelo Misori and chairman Amboko Milemba urged the Government to take education matters seriously.

The officials condemned the delayed disbursement and said teachers will not take responsibility for ‘any eventuality’. “This is not a next financial year’s Budget issue. The cash was already budgeted for in the current financial year and the money is there. What we are demanding is the release for the same,” said Osiany.

Ministry’s demands

Misori says: “We are not going to plead with the Government because of the children. They know what they should do. Let them give the cash.”

But in what seemed to turn the heat to schools, Godia last week challenged teachers to explain how they have spent the cash sent so far.

“Procurement of books happens at school level. Why to booksellers say they are owed cash? Who has not paid them and why?” he said. “We sent Sh8.8 for free day secondary education and Sh6.8 to free primary education. We are supposed to send Sh9.5 billion to secondary schools and Sh1.7 billion to primary.”

However, speaking to Education Mutula asked teacher unions to join him in demanding for the enforcement of the capitation as was agreed by education stakeholders.

MPs add their voice

“It will be unfortunate to send children home. Teachers and the ministry should read from the same page. That is how we shall work for the good of children,” he said.

The anarchy in education sector is so pronounce that MPs also called for the release of the money. The House Parliamentary Committee on Education, Science and Technology chairman David Koech said the House is concerned over the crisis. “We want both the ministry and the Treasury to tell Kenyans what is happening. The situation is terrible.”

Kenya National Parents Association  chair Nathan Barasa demanded that the cash be released before end of this week.

 


 

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