No country can respond to the demand for increased digital learning, creation of new labour markets and a growing service industry without the foundational and middle level literacy derived from the basic level of education.
This notwithstanding, in many developing countries, education is more expensive than any other service offered to the population.
In the long term, governments are inventing ways of cushioning parents by offering free and compulsory basic education as a response to the Sustainable Development Goals 4 (SDG- 4) on offering free, accessible and quality education to all by 2030.
The introduction of Free Primary Education policy in Kenya in 2003 was in tandem with efforts by the international community, adopting the six Education for All (EFA) goals at the World Forum in Senegal in April 2000 as well as the Millennium Development Goals in 2000 that call for increased access to quality basic education and training.
This broad vision of education and the holistic approach to sector development were fully embraced by Kenya as a critical vehicle for realising Vision 2030, the road map for development.
The Constitution unequivocally promises all Kenyans opportunity to capitalise on the progress made so far in order to exploit the full potential of education for each and every child, youth and adult in our country.
In addition, the Basic Education Act 2013 emphasises the fact that basic education, which has been made free and compulsory in Kenya, should be operationalised through the legal framework provided for in the Act.
Both the Constitution and Basic Education Act 2013 guarantee mechanisms of ensuring that every citizen gets access to basic education and other economic and social rights that hinge on the citizens access to and performance in education, as much as on the application of knowledge, attitude and skills gained through the educational experience.
Although disbursement of funds to schools towards realising the objective of making every Kenyan access education is a blessing, there have been gaps in the manner in which the Treasury releases the money. If the funds are released on time; work plans, objectives, tasks, procedures and timelines for activities will flow in the best ways possible.
The organisational management will be able to determine priorities and operations necessary to achieve the vision of free and subsidised basic education.
During the past two decades of the existence of capitation in the education sector in Kenya, attention has focused on development of infrastructure, supply of instructional materials and improvement of the general learning environment. These are gains that must continue to be guarded.
The Sh16.2 billion released by the Treasury on September 15, 2023 is part of the Sh89.4 billion allocated for capitation in the 2022-23 Financial Year for the three levels of learning, which include comprehensive schools, senior schools and universities.
The unwritten policy on release of capitation dictates that the funds should be released in three tranches of 50 per cent, 30 per cent and then 20 per cent. The government has not adhered to this guideline for a long time, thus causing school principals and heads to run into stressful situations for not being able to undertake their management financial responsibilities.
The Principal Secretary Ministry of Education relayed a detailed breakdown of the funds for their prudent utilisation as required under government regulations.
The 50:30:20 per cent disbursements translate to Sh44.7, Sh26.8 and Sh17.8 billion respectively. The Sh16.2 disbursement leaves a balance of Sh12.8 billion, which, if not released before the end of September will cause chaos in schools.
A timetable released by the Kenya National Examination Council indicates that the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education, the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education and the maiden Kenya Primary School Education Assessment will be done during this period. If the money is not released forthwith, these examinations could be affected.
Heads of institutions are already warning that the gaps created by the lack of consistency in disbursements could throw preparations for the national examinations into disarray.
They also fear that should this continue, some of them might be dragged to court for failing to pay salaries and other statutory deductions. It has also emerged that schools are battling with hefty penalties accrued from non-remittances of statutory deductions.
Workers in these schools, who are also parents, will not have anywhere to run to if their basic requirements are not met through payments of their salaries and other emoluments. The Kenya National Union of Teachers calls upon agencies of government concerned with planning, allocating and disbursement of capitation to adhere to the 50:30:20 spread allocation.
The threat of dragging principals to court at a time when they are supposed to be preparing for national examinations would be a huge embarrassment to them and could push them into depression.