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Free education for secondary students starting January

Robin Obino @PeopleDailyKE

It is all systems go for the roll-out of Free Secondary Education after the government released guidelines on the implementation of the programme starting January 2018.

Education ministry Permanent Secretary, Belio Kipsang said through a circular the government was ready to finance the cost of learning in secondary schools after scrapping of the parent component of Sh9,374 paid by every learner every year.

The programme could cost the government Sh60 billion according to projections by the Task Force on Secondary School Fees. While releasing the circular for new guidelines for the implementation of free secondary school education the PS clarified that the move was meant to ensure 100 per cent transition for all learners and free the burden from parents.

“The parent component of Sh9,374 has been taken up by the government and as such leaners in day schools will not pay any school fees,” said Kipsang. Consequently, all learners will now receive Sh22, 244 starting January.

Learners in boarding schools will receive the same capitation from the government. Parents with students in national and county schools boarding schools will now pay Sh53, 554 a year while those with leaners in boarding schools and extra county schools will be charged Sh40, 535 school fees.

The government has also increased capitation of learners with special needs to Sh57,974. Schools will now be run on different accounts—tuition, operation, saving and boarding—to ensure accountability and smooth implementation of the programme. Under the operation account, schools may need to seek authority from the ministry for surplus funds when it is absolutely necessary to so.

The same, however, does not apply for tuition except for specific items under the votehead such as textbooks and laboratory equipment. These, however, do not come without conditions. All public schools must be duly registered and headed by a principal appointed by the Teachers’ Service Commission. The schools must also submit accurate enrolment data and relevant bank accounts to the ministry.

This, the ministry, argues will enhance efficiency. “All school managements, especially principals, are expected to ensure prudence use of funds and to adhere to the laid down financial regulations as stipulated in the financial management instructions handbook.

This is why we are putting in place these raft of measures,” the PS said. According to the circular dated October 19, disbursement of the funds will be in three tranches with the first being released next month. Subsequent disbursements will be in April and August each year or as the resources will flow from the National Treasury.

President Uhuru Kenyatta chaired a Cabinet meeting on a supplementary budget last month during which it was resolved that requisite infrastructure be provided through government initiative and eventually lead to 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary. An audit on secondary school education in 2014, pegged the maximum cost of free day school education at Sh51.1 billion.

However, enrolment then was 2.1 million. Data from the Ministry of Education shows the current student enrolment is 2.5 million. Currently, there are 8,592 public secondary schools. Half of these are boarding or institutions with a boarding wing. Statistics from the ministry show this year alone, there was a shortage of 150,943 places in Form One.

There were only 790,680 places to accommodate the 941,623 candidates who sat KCPE exams last year. The government has said it will build additional 2,000 classrooms to create more Form One slots in 2018 at a cost of Sh6 billion.

The ministry, early this year, indicated only 63,254 more spaces will be created for next year’s intake, leaving a deficit of 78,066. A total of 1,003,556 candidates sat KCPE exam last week and are all expected to join secondary come January.

By August this year, the government had disbursed Sh6 billion for the improvement of 2,500 schools in preparation of implementation of free secondary education. The funds will be used in improving infrastructure and expanding the institutions to accommodate more students. These include construction of new laboratories, classrooms and dormitories in boarding schools.

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