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Stakeholders say Sh497b budget drop in the ocean

By People Team
Monday, June 15th, 2020
Students in a classroom at the Marie Curie school in Hanoi, Vietnam, on May 4. Hand washing, social distancing and wearing masks will the new normal when schools reopen in Kenya in September. Photo/PD/AFP

Reuben Mwambingu and Noven Owiti @gitshee   

Education stakerholders led by the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) have commended the National Treasury for setting aside Sh497.7 billion budgetary allocations to the education sector, terming the move as a positive sign for the sector.

The unions have however laughed-off the government’s plan to hire just 10,000 teachers, terming it a drop in the ocean, especially considering the needs of the education sector post Covid-19. Tutors also say the budget has come at a time when the country is sailing in unchartered waters of the Covid-19 crisis and the State has to consider education under the new normal.

Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (Kessha) chairman Kahi Indimuli says the budget took cognisant of two priority areas in the education sector —enhancing the workforce and expansion of schools infrastructure.

“The proposal to employ more tutors will ease the current biting human resource shortages hence boost learning delivery in the country,” he says. 

Indimuli says schools have been struggling with the employment of teachers under the Board of Managements (BoM) to cope with staff deficits.

“Our schools have had to endure with the unnecessary expenditures of employing additional teachers by the BOMs to bridge the human resource deficit,” Indimuli told Scholar.

While highlighting the budget policy and revenue raising measures for fiscal year 2020/21 budget in Parliament on Thursday, Treasury and Planning Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani allocated Sh497.7 billion — about 26.7 per cent of the national budget— to fund education. 

He proposed Sh59.4 billion to cater for free Day Secondary Education Programme (including NHIF for students) and Sh12.4 billion for free Primary Education Programme. In addition, CS Yatani proposed Sh2 billion for recruitment of 5,000 teachers to boost  teacher-to-student ratio.

“This is further to the provision for hiring 10,000 teacher interns under the Economic Stimulus Programme.

To improve health conditions and support education achievements of our school going children, I have set aside Sh1.8 billion for the school feeding programme,” he said. 

Howevever, Kwale Kuppet secretary Mackenzie John Tuki says the budgetary allocations are nothing to smile about yet considering the requirements that have come with the pandemic.

“Covid-19 has complicated matters. If we were asking for 80,000 new teachers to ensure that the 100 per cent transition to secondary schools and the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) work, we now to plan for about double that number because of Covid-19,” he said. 

Coronavirus budget 

Social distancing protocol, hand washing, enhanced sanitary measures and wearing of protective equipment means classes must be expanded and staff increased. “The allocations maybe just too little as Treasury will be forced to cough up more in the near future,” Tuki said.

The teacher questioned the future of the education sector under the Covid-19 new normal, “if up and until now, the government has performed below par in funding 100 per cent transition.”

“The government must think outside the box because the future will require a lot of monitoring. Hiring 10,000 intern teachers when we have almost an equal number retiring or having retired, —in fact some of them are going away during this pandemic – then it will be like we are feeling one whole to open two others,” Tuki explained.

On her part, Knut’s second National vice Chairperson Rosalia Mkanjala said the allocations are commendable but urged the government to employ more teachers and provide enough learning materials for schools.

Mkanjala said 1,000 ICT teachers are too few to cater for all schools in the country.

“I thought maybe they will employ at least a teacher per school who is ICT compliant meaning that they will be helping teachers to file returns instead of going to cyber cafes,” she noted.

Indimuli wants the focus to shift to recruiting more teachers on permanent terms and not interns. “But the intern teachers ought to be given priority for permanent employment in the proposed recruitment,” he added. 

The association chairman said plans on expansion of the schools infrastructure is time bound considering the need that has been there even before the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

Yatani has given Sh6.3 billion for the construction and equipping of technical institutions and vocational training centres and Sh4 billion for examinations fee waiver for Class Eight and Form Four candidates.

Nevertheless, Indimuli points says the funds earmarked for developing infrastructure may not be adequate considering the shortfall in most schools.

Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Homa Bay county chairman Patrick Were wants the Ministry of Education to give priority to refurbishment of schools infrastructure damaged by the recent floods.