With the cost of quality education out of reach for most Kenyans, each year, thousands of eager students fall off the education ladder for lack of fees.
There have been decent efforts such as education bursaries supported by the Constituency Development Fund, county governments and the Affirmative Action Fund to ensure that no child misses an opportunity at an education.
But the importance of the bursaries has been questioned due to claims of corruption especially since deserving cases are often left out, or the amount issued is too little to adequately cover the fee required. Mary Muthoni, whose daughter is studying building and construction at Dedan Kimathi Kimathi University, said she was awarded Constituency Development Fund (CDF) bursary in 2014 because she had someone on the inside.
“In 2014, I applied for the CDF bursary and received Sh3,000 which was barely enough because my child was in a boarding secondary school. The only reason I received was because I knew someone in the office, that was the only way to get the funds,” Muthoni told Sunday Standard.
Jane Wangui, a widowedmother of three, knows too well the desperation of resorting to the CDF bursary, the uncertain period of waiting and the devastation of missing out when the education of your children depended on it.
In 2011, Wangui was devastated, her husband had just died after being diagnosed with cancer. With the loss of her partner weighing heavily on her mind, she started to pick up the pieces of her life.
“My husband and I were business owners, but the hospital bills and expensive cancer treatments decimated our finances and I had to find ways to keep my family afloat, even as I grieved my loss,” she recalled.
A friend pointed her to the Nyeri Town CDF bursary to keep her two elder daughters in school.
“I applied for the CDF bursary in 2013, but it was a very tedious process because I did not know how to go about it. The attitude was that you had to know someone in the office to become a beneficiary,” Wangui explained.
She applied but never heard back from the office and when the list of beneficiaries was put up, her children’s names weren’t on it.
Disheartened by the process, she did not attempt to apply again until this year. Nyeri Town MP Ngujiri Wambugu, the CDF patron, campaigned and was elected on the promise that “no child would be left behind”.
‘No child is left behind’, Ngunjiri’s manifesto read. In his campaigns, he promised to focus most of the constituency’s development funds towards ensuring that every Nyeri child goes to school.
“He will also work to raise the school transition rates from primary to secondary to college,” the manifesto read.
This year, Nyeri Town Constituency has issued a total of Sh21.7 million in bursaries to 4,008 beneficiaries for the 2017/18 financial year. 8,000 application forms were issued in March and 6,350 forms were returned after the vetting process was completed. From these, 4,008 applicants were found to have complied with the process and they all received funds.
Priority was given to orphans and persons with disability. Those in universities got Sh10,000, college students received Sh7,000 while those in boarding and day secondary schools got Sh5,000 and Sh2,000 respectively.
Three weeks after handing in her application, Wangui received a text message inviting her to attend a public meeting on bursaries so the CDF officials could explain the process.
“At the meeting, the MP explained that after the CDFCommittee went through the more than 6,000 bursary application forms, several people had been disqualified because of failing to comply with the guidelines for the application,” she recounted. Ecstatic parents
Ngunjiri and his NG-CDF Committee held meetings with all the 6,000 bursary applicants in the wards and explained the process before issuing the list of successful applicants.
According to Nyeri Town Assistant Constituency Office Manager Josh Mwangi, the aim was to ensure that all applicants understood how the process had gone. “In the past, constituents did not know how the bursaries were issued and why those who did not get it had failed,” he said.
Last month, Wangui was ecstatic to learn that her two daughters, Polly Wambui and Martha Ombok received bursaries of Sh10,000 each.
Wambui, is a second year student at Mt Kenya University studying commerce and economics while her sister Ombok is in her fourth year at University of Eldoret studying mathematical statistics.
Equally ecstatic about the Nyeri bursaries is Muthoni, whose daughter studying building and construction was listed.