Bursary funds diverted to build classrooms

Monday, December 14th, 2020 00:00 | By
A tuition block in Lurambi Primary School under construction. Photo/PD/DOUGLAS DINDI

Lurambi constituency has shifted money allocated for bursaries to improve infrastructure in schools. Officials say absorbing the funds, which was not spent this year,  would free their bank account and qualify it for the next available disbursement.

Reallocation of Sh25 million meant for bursaries for bright and needy students to build school infrastructure in Lurambi constituency in Kakamega county could cost the continuity of education for some learners as schools reopen in January.

Asked whether, the decision to divert the funds while schools are preparing to reopen would affect an estimated 4,000 learners in the constituency, who depend on the funds, Lurambi Member of Parliament  Bishop Titus Khamala said spending the money on bursary would result in an audit query.

Khamala said the 2020 academic year bursary shortlist will be reviewed through a fresh   advertisement immediately the national treasury disburses funds.

The Lurambi Constituency Development Fund (CDF) committee allocated Sh26 million towards bursary during the 2019/20 financial year, but due to a sudden closure of all learning institutions in March this year to control the spread of Covid-19, the funds largely remained idle.

In October, the committee wrote to the National Government CDF (NG-CDF) board requesting to shift Sh25 million towards the completion of 44 classrooms in select primary schools in the area on the ground that the 2020 basic education school calendar was irredeemable.

The committee opined that relocating the funds to upgrade school infrastructure to meet set Covid-19 health and safety guidelines for learners would also free their bank account and trigger further disbursements, which could only be made when bank balances drop below Sh10 million.

The Ministry of Education in November shelved the planned phased reopening of schools after a second wave of the Covid-19 contagion struck the country in October, necessitating a review of the reopening date to January next year.

“It is true we have not given out any bursaries to learners this year. The committee agreed not to send the money to schools, because it would result in an audit query,” he explained adding, “Since the 2020 academic year was considered lost, it was only wise to divert the cash to improve infrastructure.”

He said there was a need for more classrooms, restoration of dilapidated ones and assurance of high standards of hygiene.

The head of corporate affairs at NG-CDF board Brenda Onyino told Scholar on phone that the board approved the constituency’s request to reallocate the bursary funds towards creation of more learning space and ease crowding in classrooms.

Other constituencies requested reallocation of  the funds to drill additional watering points among other needs.

“The board approved proposals of CDF committees that requested to divert their funds.

The move was necessary considering that a continued stay of the bursary funds in the CDF accounts inhibited more cash in-flows from treasury,” she observed.

Khamala claimed the board still owed Lurambi CDF Sh45 million pending from the 2019/20 financial year. 

The constituency was allocated a total of Sh137.36 million for the 2019/20 financial year.

Official records on the fund board’s website, indicate a total of Sh121 million has so far been disbursed, the latest disbursement of Sh28 million being on August 26, this year.

This leaves the NG-CDF board with a balance of Sh16 million for Lurambi.

“We want to ensure that our learning institutions meet health and safety protocols and guidelines ahead of the January 4, reopening date, but we are not averse to the fees challenges this pandemic would bring.

Students, particularly from secondary schools may be required to reapply for the bursaries  afresh,” he explained.

NG-CDF guidelines direct that CDF committees set aside at least 30 per cent of funds allocated to them every year for bursaries. 

Khamala says the CDF committee has retained Sh1 million out of the Sh26 million for bursaries for use as bursary emergency cash.

Among the projects set to benefit from the reallocations, include a Sh16 million eight- classroom tuition block at Ebwambwa Primary School, a  Sh4.4 million six- classroom high-rise tuition block at Lurambi Primary School. Both projects are in Sheywe ward.

At  Ichina Primary School in Mahiakalo ward, the committee has committed Sh4.7 million  to construct a four-classroom high rise tuition block while at St Peter’s Ebuhayi Primary School, a four-class oom block will cost Sh5 million.

Eight classrooms, four each at Eshikhuyu Primary School and Emukangu Primary School in Butsotso Central ward are also under construction.

The committee is spending a further Sh2 million on purchase of land for expansion of space at new Elufwafwa and Emasera Primary Schools.

 Parents expressed disappointment over the constituency’s decision to divert funds meant for students from poor families, saying their children risk missing out on education.

They argued that parents should have been consulted before the decision was made, noting that it may take long before the next academic  year’s funds are released.

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