The government’s failure to release funds for the free education programme before schools reopened on Monday is absurd. It’s proof that we are getting our priorities wrong on crucial programmes.
Ideally, with more than Sh15 billion set aside for the free primary and free day secondary school programmes this financial year, there should be no excuse for the Ministry of Education and the Treasury to fail to disburse the money promptly.
Only late last year, the ministry promised to disburse the funds annually on a 50:30:20 basis based on the school terms. This meant that half of the funds allocated for the programmes should have been released in January, 30 per cent in May, and the rest in August.
This plan that was made only in August last year and has not been implemented, perhaps signifying that the more things appeared to change, the more they remained the same at the ministry.
How would anyone expect headteachers to keep the more than 10 million pupils in school without money to buy reading and writing material? Already, the schools have accumulated huge debts as a result of delayed disbursements over the years.
It is perhaps time the government came out clearly on its commitment to funding the programme. For we are witnessing far too much money being spent on less important programmes than safeguarding the future of our children.
For instance, MPs are busy pushing for better retirement packages without caring if our children are allowed to study. Even worse, we are seeing venal state officers looting public coffers as we starve our children’s future.
We must not allow the noble free learning programme to collapse even after the term of its initiator, President Kibaki, nears its end.