Chapter 4 Article 43(1) f, of the Constitution provides that every Kenyan citizen is entitled to, among other rights and freedoms, the right to education.
This is in line with the Education for All goals that call on countries to ensure they provide their citizens with free, accessible and equitable education, in tandem with the SDG 4 agenda.
This call keeps on evading most governments in Africa and the rest of the world as education continues to be expensive, inaccessible and of low quality.
Last week at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development in Nairobi, the Kenya National Union of Teachers, UASU, KUPPET, Parents Association, TSC, Ministry of Education and KICD, among other stakeholders in education, held a conference on funding and commercialisation of education that was sponsored by Education International.
There is an ongoing national discourse on the cost of education and how much it consumes from the national budgetary allocation.
Whereas the debate centres on capitation to learners in the basic sector of education, the reviewing of university and college funding models and entrenching digital learning in our education system, the focus should also be on the hiring of trained, qualified and registered teachers for our schools and giving enough motivation to those in the profession.
This will lower the cost of education in terms of parents contributing to sustaining teachers hired by Boards of Management and PTA arrangements. It will also make the commercialisation of education through private schools less attractive to parents.
Important to note is that when there is underfunding in the education sector, the costs incurred, especially in the public education sector, are pushed towards parents. This is basically caused by demand and supply factors, which are; high demand for education, inadequate public schools, perceived decline in quality of education, increased human population, availability of trained and unemployed teachers, perception of free basic education, low government capitation, differentiated curriculum demand in education and lack of regulation of private schools.
These are causes that can be handled by the government if proper investment in education is done. In the 2022/2023 budgetary allocation, Sh544.4 billion was appropriated for the education sector.
This was improved to Sh628.6 billion in the 2023/2024 Financial Year for among other reasons, the recruitment of an additional 20,000 teachers (Sh4.8 billion), increased capitation grant for Junior Secondary Schools (Sh25.5 billion), Free Primary Education (Sh12.5 billion), and Free Day Secondary Education (Sh65.4 billion).
These financial allocations are still a drop in the ocean, considering the escalating cost of living, the rise of consumer commodity prices escalated utility bills and the pricey cost of teaching tools and learning materials.
Pre-primary learners have been allocated Sh1,170 per pupil. This amount is extremely low. Knut proposes at least Sh5,000 per pupil per annum. Primary school pupils have been allocated Sh2,237 per learner. Knut proposes Sh4,000. Currently, the government allocates Sh1,420 per child in primary school which is not enough.
Junior secondary students have been allocated Sh15,544, which should be adjusted to Sh22,000. Students in secondary school are allocated Sh22,244 which is dropped in the ocean.
Senior secondary school learners have been allocated Sh19,628 per student. This amount should be raised to Sh35,000. Before the split into Senior and Junior Secondary, learners were allocated Sh22,244.
Special needs learners have been allocated Sh18,000 each. This is less than what is required considering the runaway inflation. The capitation should be increased to Sh35,000 for all learners with special needs and disabilities in primary school and Sh60,000 in secondary schools.
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Currently, learners in secondary schools are allocated Sh35,000 as a top-up, while Sh2,300 as a top-up in primary schools. Besides enhancing capitation for special needs and disabled learners, the government should also invest in teaching tools/technology that every special needs educator should have in their classrooms.
To ensure equitable quality education and lifelong learning, it is imperative for the government to prioritise budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Education and Teachers Service Commission.
Realising that it is the role of the government to provide free, accessible and quality education to Kenyan children as stipulated in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 and our Constitution, the stakeholders proposed a number of recommendations that include the need for all education stakeholders to cause a national discourse on the best way to fund education and minimise commercialisation of the same.
There is a need for more government schools in identified areas, especially urban informal settlements. Enforce stringent observance of the Kenya Physical Planning Act (2019) that provides for social amenity spaces in residential areas, including schools. Revise and increase government capitation to public schools. Ambitious recruitment of trained teachers to public schools across the country.