Experts call for increased education financing

Monday, January 25th, 2021 00:00 | By
Joseph Wasikhongo.

Barry Silah @obel_barry

Education is one of the sectors still bearing the burden of Covid-19. School closures, strict protocols to reduce infection and other arising issues have dealt it a harsh blow, creating concerns over funding in the short and long term.

In the 2019/20 National Treasury Budget, the Ministry of Education was accorded a whopping Sh473.4 billion (27 per cent) and Sh497 billion in the 2020/21 calendar year for its programmes; majority of which went to salaries, free primary education and other allied infrastructure projects.

This, according to stakeholders, has created an urgent need for increased allocation of funds to the sector.

“We would expect the budgetary slashing to slow down government programmes such as the 100 per cent transition, the recruitment of teachers and improvement school infrastructure through the rehabilitation and construction of classrooms.

The slashing is also bound to entrench inequalities as it would impact on affirmatory action interventions such as those aimed at capitation and improvement of infrastructure in low cost boarding schools in ASAL areas,” states Joseph Wasikhongo, National Coordinator of Elimu Yetu Coalition, a private stakeholder organisation.

Besides the Sh497 billion allocation, the sector under this plan was to benefit from Sh2.4 billion for recruitment of 10,000 teacher interns to support the 100 per cent transition and employment creation; Sh2.1 billion for rehabilitation and construction of classrooms.

“Generally, the pandemic should have a negative effect on the education budget. However, as indicated earlier, this should not be the case, because the current budget 2020/2021 was developed with this in consideration.

This means certain unforeseen expenditures might have cropped up, which government should clearly explain for purposes of accountability,” adds Wasikhongo.

Kenya Private Schools Association (KPSA) CEO, Peter Ndoro, urges the government to consider extending a stimulus programme across board since everyone including his organisation suffered losses.

Raise school fees

“As KPSA, we have in conservative estimates lost around Sh60 billion when our 2.6 million students were not in class.

We have to understand that private schools do not largely depend on government for support, but through school fees.

The pandemic hit not only families, but school owners really hard. It was even more challenging because most financial institutions were not willing to extend credit to private schools over uncertainty.

It means even now that students are back, fees will have to rise for schools to survive.

It would have been an ideal situation for us and we had expected that part of the stimulus package would help to cushion us because for nine months the cash flows to our institutions were depleted.

What we are now looking at going forward is to fully embrace digital transformation,” he explains.

Analysts argue that income shocks at household level may lead learners to join family efforts to boost household income.

With the funding outlook in the next two years not as clear, experts argue that no matter what, governments must commit resources to education.

“The options countries have for funding education are to commit, in a consistent manner, resources to the sector,” said Wasikhongo.

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