State should ensure education is affordable and accessible to all

Tuwo Primary Schools pupils, Baringo County, studying under a tree in October 2017. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

The Constitution, Chapter 4, Article 43(1) f, provides that every Kenyan citizen is entitled to, among many other rights and freedoms, the right to education.

 This is line with Sustainable Development Goals agenda 4 on provision of free, quality and accessible education to all citizens of the world by 2030.

The Kenya National Union of Teachers, under the auspices of Education International (EI) conducted a study on privatisation and commercialisation of education in Kenya between September 2022 and January 2023.

The research findings were launched on February 17, 2023 at the Kenya Institute of Special Education.

It was clear from the findings that the education sector is in a mess considering, first, the inconsistence and unclear policies on implementation of the Competency-Based curriculum (CBC) in which the Ministry of Education and the Teachers Service Commission are still struggling to lay a firm ground of acceptability by parents, teachers and other stakeholders.

Secondly, underfunding has hampered efforts to put in place quality and adequate public school infrastructure given the shift in formations under the entire education infrastructure anatomy, serious teacher shortages even after government advertised over 30,000 vacancies for teachers in both primary and secondary schools to help in the implementation of JSS.

Third, stagnant capitation given the prevailing inflation and the fact that the Ministry of Education has never thought of revising it despite lamentations and complaints from players in the sector and the current unfortunate debate to privatise university education, which exposes this segment of the sector to private investors. All these findings expose the education sector to privatisation and commercialisation.

Working conditions

This undermines the right to education, entrenches and exacerbates inequalities, and exploits teachers and education support personnel, labour rights and working conditions and might derail all the achievements made towards attainment of SDG 4, to which Kenya appended her signature as a commitment that we shall be involved in the campaign to ensure education is accessible, equitable to all citizens and is of quality.

During the launch attended Universities' Academic Staff Union, Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers, Central Organisation of Trade Unions, civil society organisations and friends of teachers, calls were made to the government to revise and increase government capitation to public schools now that inflation is at its highest; initiate a national dialogue on education where all education stakeholders will be involved in identifying the best way to regulate private education providers and have teacher unions and other stakeholders take lead roles since they understand what is ailing the education system.

The government was asked to revamp public schools to make them more attractive to parents, learners and workers as well as build more public schools in urban informal settlements that are densely populated, yet have an acute shortage of schools infrastructure, which encourages privatisation and commercialisation of education.

In addition, it was proposed that the Ministry of Education should conduct a vigorous recruitment of trained and qualified teachers to public schools across the country so as to address the glaring teacher shortage in both primary and secondary public schools. 

What Knut has always wanted the government to address yet feels the latter is not keen to, is the proposal that at least 15 per cent GDP be spent on education.

The fact that we have a large population in need of education means the government should restructure her budgetary allocation in a way that is commensurate with current needs.

If the government doesn’t work on increasing funds to drive the public education sector, considering that education is a basic human right and a public good that must be free to all citizens, then private investors will thrive in this vacuum and render many citizens and schoolgoing children unable to afford education.

The ripple effect of this will be that all the gains made in fighting illiteracy as commitments to local, continental and global efforts will go to waste. Lack of an educated population is much more expensive to handle than an ailing economy.

Knut therefore stands with the disadvantaged low earners in the country to call upon every concerned players in education, led by the government, to work and see to it that education as a public good is made cheap and affordable and accessible to all.

It is by doing this that Kenya shall move towards realising industrialisation by the time anticipated in the SDGs. It is our collective responsibility.