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Cost hiccup mars Sh1.9 billion schools desks

By Augustine Oduor | October 17th 2020

The Sh1.9 billion desks project is facing a challenge as carpenters contracted to assemble the school equipment push for higher prices.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha had said each of the primary school desks would cost Sh2,500 as lockers and chairs cost Sh3,800 under the Economic Stimulus Programme for public primary and secondary schools countrywide.

But the artisans now argue the quotation is lower and should be revised upwards. “The Ministry is doing a lot of persuasion to have them (carpenters) accept our offer. It is a nationwide problem and each Sub-county has recorded cases,” said a top Ministry of Education official.

Artisans said the cost of assembling a desk and locker was Sh5,151 as opposed to the allocated Sh3,800.

In his decline letter, Eliud Wandaki of Kakamega argued that the government had not factored in the costs involved in accessing plywood that is mostly found in Eldoret and Kisumu.

Another artisan, Charles Wafula of Bukhungu polytechnic, said most carpenters in Kakamega lack startup capital to make the desks.

He said initial reports indicated they would be given some money before-hand to start the assembly.

“The government has not given us the money, they want us to use our own finances and we do not know when they will finance us, at the moment most of us have no money,’’ said Wafula.

A total of 622,000 desks, lockers, and chairs will be manufactured and delivered to 30 schools per Sub-county. Some 5,254 secondary and 5,136 primary schools are expected to benefit from the programme.

Primary schools were to receive 360,000 desks at a cost of Sh900 million, while secondary schools would get 263,157 lockers and chairs at Sh1 billion.

According to the quotation drawn by the School Equipment Production Unit, lockers and chairs should be of 16 gauge, one inch round metal tube frame and a lockable box of cypress wood.

For lockers, the top hung opening flap will be made of three-quarter inch thick plain manufactured block board with cypress wood beading and piano hinges.

“High finish with clear varnish and metal frame painted with black gloss paint,” reads the quotation.

For chairs, they should be mounted on 16 gauge, one inch round metal tube frame “9mm thick plywood seat, for the top and, back rest must be ergonomically rounded.” 

For primary school desks, the document says they will be made of three quarter inch block board top and seat with provision of bookshelf.

The price hiccup is now threatening timely delivery of the furniture to schools as Ministry retreats to decide whether the rest of learners will be recalled back to school.

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