Underfunding leaves school girls with scanty sanitary towels

By - Sep 26th 2023

The Ministry of Education issued only seven packets of sanitary towels to girls enrolled in Class 6 to 8 in public schools, a report by the Auditor General shows.

Auditor General Nancy Gathungu revealed that the ministry was to issue nine packets of sanitary towels to cover the nine months the girls are in school. However, the ministry said it issued a few packets for two financial years because of budget constraints.

The audit looked into the budgetary allocation and implementation for the programme from 2019-20 to 2021-2022 financial years.

The government has spent Sh3.5 billion between 2011/12 to 2021/22 financial years under the programme, which has benefited 12.6 million girls countrywide.

The audit further revealed that in 2021-22 financial year, the government disbursed Sh259 million, which could not cover the issuance of seven packets to the 1.7 million girls in classes 6-8.

At an average cost of Sh41.2 per packet, the government needed to spend approximately Sh483 million.

“Therefore, girls received an average of 3.75 packets per year, which represents 42 per cent of their annual entitlement of nine packets per year,” the report found.

In 2021-22 FY, due to budget constraints, Class 6 pupils didn’t receive sanitary towels, while 72 per cent of girls in Class 7 and 100 per cent of girls in Class 8 benefitted.

Gathungu further noted there was inconsistent allocation of funds to the programme despite increasing enrollment of girls.

For instance, in 2019-20 FY, allocation increased from Sh368 million to Sh470 million in 2020-21 FY, but in the following financial year, it was drastically cut to Sh270 million.

The impact of the budget cut saw the number of girls, who benefited from the programme in 2021-22, reduce to 898,379 from 1,675,679 the previous year.

It was observed that though girls who had attained puberty in lower classes were left out of the programme, schools were forced to share sanitary towels to aid those pupils.

In Garissa Township sub-county, there were more girls in lower primary who could have benefited from the programme compared to the number of girls in upper primary.

“Failure by the Ministry of Education to consider girls in lower classes has resulted in the schools having to share the allocated number of towels amongst all the girls who have attained puberty,” the report noted.


The audit also shows a review of sanitary towels distribution lists and schools’ enrolment data indicated discrepancies.

It was established that there were cases where girls from humble backgrounds were sharing sanitary towels with relatives and friends.

“112 out of 452 girls interviewed reported having shared the sanitary towels received. The majority of the girls indicated that they shared their sanitary towels with their siblings in secondary schools,” the report noted.

The audit revealed that 59 per cent of girls interviewed reported having to use more than one packet due to prolonged menses of more than three days. This led to girls resorting to unhygienic materials like torn pieces of clothes and blankets and skipping school, negatively affecting their performance.

A review of delivery notes also found there was irregular delivery of sanitary towels to sub-county offices and schools. “All the interviewed Sub-County Directors of Education confirmed that they were not aware of the expected delivery dates.”

The head teachers also revealed that they were not adequately facilitated to pick sanitary towels from sub-county officers, and in some cases, they were forced to dig into their pockets to fund their travel.

The report reveals that the head teacher in Kaplamoi is forced to travel 121 kilometres to collect 140 packets of sanitary towels for 20 girls in Class 6 to 8.

In Marigat, 20 and 10 schools in Mochongoi and Mukutani zones were cut off by banditry, and the sub-county director of education had to deliver their allocation of sanitary towels during zonal meetings.

Other issues were the lack of training for teachers and girls on menstrual hygiene management to enable the success of the programme and the lack of disposal bins for used sanitary towels.

Silver lining

The audit, however, noted that as a result of the programme, there were reduced cases of absenteeism and improved performance and participation in school by girls.

“Interviews with headteachers and teachers in charge in all the 44 sampled schools revealed that prior to the introduction of the sanitary towels programme, girls’ attendance in school was irregular, compared to that of boys,” the report shows.

“This has since changed as girls can now access sanitary towels when in school and hence attend classes regularly as boys do.”

The implementation of the programme was also a relief for parents, especially in poor homes, as they could re-direct their earnings to cater for other basic needs in their households.

The Auditor General has recommended the ministry issue sanitary towels to all girls who have attained puberty and provide adequate sanitary towels to girls during the school period.

Further, for schools far from sub-county offices, the sanitary towels should be delivered to Zonal offices and the head teachers should facilitate the collection of the sanitary towels.

It also recommends training teachers on menstrual hygiene management and implementation of clear monitoring and evaluation system for the programme.

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