When government could not afford to fund education

Kenya High School during the colonial era. [File, Standard]

The paradoxes of our times! Primary and secondary schools are in a state of paralysis. There is an acute shortage of infrastructure, teachers and learning resources for junior secondary schools.

So dire is the situation that the school games normally held in the second term are in limbo. There is a ray of hope that things will be different next year for the education sector has been allocated Sh639 billion.

But until next year when this money is channelled to schools, parents, learners and teachers will have to improvise to keep the institutions open, as happened 106 years ago, when Kenya was struggling with the effects of the First World War which was at its height.

The situation at the time was so bad that the governor, Conway Belfield, who had been at the helm of Kenya's administration in the preceding five years, gave up pretending that the government was doing anything for schools.

He told a shocked nation, "Multifarious and urgent calls which have to be made on the perspective of the revenue of the forthcoming year and which arise from exceptional conditions made it impracticable to provide funds to expand the rudimentary and inadequate system of education which obtains in the protectorate."

He explained, during his address to the nation on February 12, 1917, that even though the tax-paying communities had a right to expect that the proper proportion of revenue which they annually contribute shall be used to equip the young generation to take their rightful place in a progressive society, there simply was no money.

The government ruled out any possibility of dolling out funds in small instalments instead of putting up systems and programmes that would benefit a larger portion of the population, arguing that instead of allocating small inadequate disbursements, he would rather the country waited until there was sufficient funding to continue the development of education. Ironically, as soon as Belfied made this pronouncement he spelt out an elaborate system meant to ensure that settlers had sufficient supply of African labourers who were paid meagre wages.

He said that his administration supported the provision of cheap labour by Africans to European farms adding that, "legitimate requirements of the farmer had to be subordinated to the continuing of the native reserve and that the amount of labour required had to be in accordance to his holding and the nature of work being carried on."

To further check the supply of labour, the governor formulated a policy to control the immigration of Africans. It will be interesting to see whether the allocation of billions to the education sector will unlock Kenya's potential. Only then can the country stop sending untrained workforce to labour markets where they are treated like latter-day slaves.