By Faith Nyamai and David Muchunguh
Public primary and secondary schools heads have been thrown into confusion after the Ministry of Education breached a promise to release money to schools last week.
The schools are grappling with huge debts owed to workers and suppliers, with security guards threatening to withdraw their services because of unpaid salaries.
The delayed funds have left the headteachers in a dilemma with some forced to dodge workers who are demanding their salaries especially after Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang issued a circular last week saying the money had been released.
“There’s nothing in the school account yet the workers and suppliers think I’m refusing to pay them,” a principal from Meru County told the Nation.
The delay also complicates schools’ preparation for reopening even as Cabinet Secretary George Magoha hinted that if the Covid-19 infections rate drop, learners may troop back to class before January.
Ironically, a number of school heads reported that Education officials have been visiting their schools to check on their level of preparedness.
“If nothing is done, the learners will come back to the same size and number of classrooms and the same dormitories. I have seen the questionnaire. It will just show them how unprepared we are,” another principal from Kiambu County said.
Public primary schools have asked the Ministry of Education to release the free primary education funds urgently to enable them pay their non-teaching staff and boards of management teachers. Primary schools in Nairobi have to contend with the new burden of hiring security guards after the county government cancelled a contract with private security companies.
Kenya Primary Schools Heads Association (Kepsha) chair, Nicholas Gathemia said that, surprisingly, the ministry has not communicated to primary schools why funds have not been released.
He said that primary schools are unable to operate and workers such as the security team have threatened to withdraw their services end of this month.
“Primary schools have been left out of the latest funds disbursement by the ministry, yet we are expected to prepare schools for reopening, pay bills and pay workers,” he said
Sources within the ministry indicated that money for primary schools will be released this week but no specific date has been given.
Mr Gathemia said that, apart from the wages, the current vote head which is usually allocated per pupil is insufficient to cater for security and support staff. Kepsha is pushing for the increase of the whole allocation of free primary education funds.
“Since 2003, primary schools have been receiving the same amount despite the harsh inflation and emerging school needs brought about by information technology which even the Ministry of Education is using to communicate and monitor schools without providing the equipment and accessories for it,” said Mr Gathemia.
Mr Gathemia said secondary schools have had an increment in the free day secondary education programme launched in 2013. Capitation for learners has remained at Sh1,420 since 2003.
“To add insult to injury, they released capitation FDSE and left out FPE as if primary schools exist in another peculiar world in this pandemic season,” he said.
Last week, Dr Kipsang’ in a circular dated August 26 said that the ministry had dispatched Sh5, 151 per student for the free day secondary education programme.
The PS said schools will receive Sh500 for maintenance and improvement of infrastructure per student, Sh3,226 for personal emoluments and administrative costs per student and Sh675 for the Eduafya programme per student.
The ministry had also said it has allocated Sh750 per student to cater for the salaries of boards of management teachers for only six months starting August to December with each teacher earning Sh10, 000 per month.
Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (Kessha) chairman Kahi Indimuli said that, by Monday, the funds had not reflected in the accounts.
“We expected the funds to be in schools’ accounts on Friday but up to date, we have not received any communication on what has caused the delay,” said Mr Indimuli.
Mr Indimuli added that schools have not been unable to pay bills which have been accumulating since they were closed in March 15 when the first coronavirus case was reported in the country.