The ongoing reforms in the education sector will amount to nothing if Kenyans do not quickly stand up and demand value for money invested in it. As a country, we have to engage in unprecedented social accountability to directly or indirectly hold the system to the commitments it makes via education budgetary allocations.
This process must, this time round out of necessity, be proactive and aimed at seeking a rationale for every investment or decision made. It must start from the Cabinet Secretary and run down to the primary school head teacher and boards of management in all villages where schools are located countrywide.
Households in Kenya spend upwards of 70 per cent of all their income on education. We need to have dialogue among ourselves on how to track individual household investment in education. We spend too much time bickering over the use of soap, cooking oil and water in our households every day. These conversations are not unnecessary but my request to the nation is to inject more energy, verve and purpose in the discourse on education where 70 per cent of our household income is invested.
As parents, let us make it our hallowed duty to visit the schools where our children go at least twice each month. Show interest in what your children do in school and check on their progress. For those with children in day schools, ask these three basic questions at the end of every school day: how was your day in school? Do you have any information for me from school? What help or support do you need with your school work today?
The questions are basic and you do not need to be highly educated to follow up on the progress of your college going child.
The home-school liaison ( purposeful connection between school and home) concept tends to exact accountability on both the service provider and receiver of service (learner); they tend to keep on the straight and narrow since they are expected to answer questions about what they do and what they fail to do (commission or omission) issues are questioned equally.
If this gets entrenched at the household level, it will become very easy to transit to the next level to enable individuals or organised groups to start holding our local schools, and Education ministry officials to account on how our taxes are put to use in the sector.
Parents and guardians need to monitor the capitation grants from the Ministry to their children in primary and secondary schools. We need to ensure the money is put to good use at the school level so that the nation receives value for its money (returns) through quality education for our learners in schools.
The revamped National Association of Parents needs to partner with other civil society agencies and the communication unit at the Education ministry to break down critical data and policy information for sharing and organising citizens into functional cells. These cells are aimed at holding school heads and the attendant boards of management to account.
Research across Kenya shows that “elite schools”, or those that have been registering improved results in the past few years, have resorted to having an elitist group of parents and guardians who pass resolutions in collusion with the head teacher and the board of management chairpersons. This clique of parents approve extra payments or levies and use their influence to get a nod for the sub-county and county education boards.
The national coalition for education, Elimu Yetu Coalition, must stand up for Kenyans and elevate the accountability debate to the national level through a deliberate advocacy strategy of collating the disparate rural and outpost voices into evidence for national level engagement.
In the 2015-2016 financial year, the Education ministry injected Sh12.6 billion as capitation for free primary education. This means every child in primary school was allocated Sh1,420. This amount was for every individual learner in any of 21,877 public primary schools across the country, while Sh12,870 was paid as tuition subsidy for all students in day secondary schools.
We have a responsibility to protect the use of our taxes by monitoring and participating in the planning and budgeting for the use of these resources at the school level.
In the 2016-2017 financial year, education gobbled up Sh36 billion in recurrent expenditure and 3.2 billion in development expenditure. This is lopsided but the least we can offer as part of our citizen responsibility is to hold the managers of the resources to account for decisions made, those delayed and those not made.
As a nation, we need to redefine corruption (for purposes of sealing the leaking points) to include: the making of wrong decisions and, or choices as an officer for the provision and access to essential services, delaying (taking more than reasonable time) the implementation of the policy decision with regard to access to essential services when resources have been allocated and implementing haphazardly a policy or practice decision relating to essential services.
If we fix the education sector and ensure it is offering our children the requisite quality learning experience, we will definitely have a solution in our hands for fixing service delivery under devolution. Education is at the heart of it since every household has a school going child or supports one.
Kenyans deserve better. We have to stand up for ourselves!
Jonathan Wesaya is country director, Discovery Learning Alliance-Kenya.