Secondary school principals have rejected the National Education Management Information System (Nemis), which the Ministry of Education uses to allocate funds to schools.
They argue that an identification error code is denying capitation funds to deserving students and have called on the government to suspend the system.
Until the error is addressed, the principals want the ministry to revert to the manual system of conducting headcounts in schools to determine the allocation of funds.
But the problem, it appears, could be beyond the administrators of Nemis as it is created by the uploading of birth certificates that share numbers, meaning it could be at the Immigration department, under the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government.
The documents presented at school are used to generate a unique personal identifier number for students, which is stored in a centralised database.
The government uses this database to allocate funds to schools and run other services, including the distribution of textbooks.
Birth certificates ordinarily should not share numbers as they are unique identifiers of persons, and the spectacle of two or more students sharing these distinct markers raises questions about the credibility of the documents they present to principals.
The Nemis system automatically flags cases of identity duplication and blocks the disbursement of money to the affected schools. Principals argue this is unfair to legitimate students and now want the ministry to carry out a physical count of students to weed out any suspected ghost learners.
Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) chairman, Kahi Indimuli, supported the proposal to suspend Nemis, saying it is creating more confusion than order. “We have to rework it,” said Mr Indimuli, adding that principals only submit documents that are brought to them by parents and have no capacity to determine authenticity.
He said the ministry should first determine that principals or learners are at fault before punishing schools by denying them resources.
“The government should work on its database so that we do not paralyse operations in schools,” said Mr Indimuli.
So poor is the system that it’s common for students to be declared non-existent yet they are in class, he added.
The problem also affected the Kenya National Examination Council, which announced in March this year that it would deregister more than 370,000 candidates affected by duplications of birth certificate numbers.
Following a public outcry, the ministry announced soon after that the issue would be resolved and no candidate would be locked out of exam rooms.
School heads who spoke to the Nation yesterday said they had received less capitation this term after Nemis failed to capture the details of some students yet they were in school and had even registered for national examinations.
“You cannot blame a headteacher over issues of birth certificates,” said a principal, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. “None of them produces the certificates; it’s the responsibility of the Interior ministry.”
A principal in Kakamega County said he had 20 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education candidates who did not receive any funding. “My Form Four Class has 290 candidates yet only 270 received capitation,” lamented the principal.
In Nairobi, a principal said he had received zero funding yet he has students in class.
Some schools missed funding after the ministry recovered funds from them on grounds that they had failed to reconcile their student registration details. Education Principal Secretary (PS) Bellio Kipsang was not available for comment yesterday.
Last week, he announced that the government had released Sh14.5 billion to schools to fund the free education programme. Sh10.8 billion went to secondary schools while primary schools received Sh3.65 billion.
The government pays Sh22,244 annually for every secondary school student and Sh1,420 for each pupil in primary.
More than 200 schools did not receive their capitation last term after failing to provide data of students on time through Nemis.
In February, Dr Kipsang told the National Assembly’s Education Committee that the ministry had captured the data of about 6.8 million students out of a possible 13 million. At the time, only three million primary learners out of a targeted 8.89 million had been captured.
The PS identified several challenges, among them slow and unreliable Internet connection in schools, lack of network connection in remote areas, resistance to change in some institutions and inadequate ICT skills among headteachers and their deputies.
Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha recently defended the Nemis programme, saying it will enable the provision of quality, reliable and timely education statistics to enrich the government’s planning processes.
“The unique identification issued to schools, learners and all members of staff in our institutions of learning will improve the management of resources in the education sector,” said Prof Magoha.
“Through this system, education sector players will get to know the status of education in regard to access, quality, equity, relevance and institutional development,” he added.