Address Knec’s funding fiasco ahead of key exams

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2023 00:45 | By
KNEC under fire for delay of invigilators, markers’ pay
KNEC CEO Dr. David Njengere. PHOTO/Print

The 2023 national examinations begin in less than a month. To be precise, the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education and Kenya Primary School Education Assessment examinations start on October 27, while the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education test begins on October 19.

Yet, teachers who invigilated and marked last year’s examinations were paid by the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) only a month ago. When the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers raised the issue of delay in payments in March, Knec chief executive David Njeng’ere decried a funding deficit, which he said had crippled activities.

We are approaching the next national examinations and the circus is about to recur. Payment of examination officials has previously been delayed due to inadequate budgetary allocation to Knec by the National government.

According to a report by the National Assembly Budget and Appropriations Committee released ahead of the Budget speech in June, Knec has struggled to meet some obligations since the allocation for the examinations waiver has remained the same, despite the number of candidates increasing every year.

In the 2023/24 budget, the council has been allocated Sh5 billion for examinations waiver for candidates. Perhaps the question we all need to ask ourselves is; how was this figure arrived at? Is there any formula Treasury uses to determine allocation to a crucial body in the education sector such as Knec? The short answer is; there is no funding formula for Knec. In the free primary and day secondary education programmes, funding is a capitation per child or student. The current capitation for free primary education is Sh1,420, while that for free day secondary education is Sh22,244 per year.

The same model is used for Technical and Vocational Education and Training . The Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms (PWPER) recommends further itemisation of this capitation, raising it to Sh1,170 for pre-primary, Sh2,238 for primary, Sh15,043 for junior and Sh22,527 for senior schools. For tertiary education, the government introduced the Differentiated Unit Cost (DUC), in 2017/18 Financial Year, as a model for funding public universities.  DUC is based on staff cost, student-staff ratio and numbers, cost of infrastructure and operations, student load and cost of programmes. This has recently been remodelled by the Kenya Kwanza government with a focus on the learner to ensure the needy and more vulnerable ones are funded more.

From  these examples, it is clear that most education programmes have their funding formulae focusing on the learner, except for examination or assessment. Even in the PWPER’s recommended capitation formula for basic education, this crucial item is conspicuously missing. This needs to be fixed urgently to cure Knec of perennial funding deficits that continuously puts it at loggerheads with examiners.

There are two ways this can be done and each puts the learner at the centre of the funding. First, the government can send money to schools for examinations waiver for primary and secondary school candidates, which the schools then submit to Knec depending on the number of candidates registered.

Or, secondly, after registration of the candidates, the government determines the allocation using a capitation for each candidate registered for the national examination.

To arrive at a reasonable figure, an assessment should first be done on how much it costs to examine one child. These include costs such as setting of the examination, printing, storage, distribution, administration, invigilation, marking, among others. This will ensure that going forward, Knec is adequately funded to optimally carry out its functions and to safeguard the integrity of examination and assessment.

— The writer is a consulting editor who comments on education matters

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