Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha on Tuesday ruled out an increase in secondary school tuition fees and instead asked parents to contribute to projects on a voluntary basis.
He said there are many wealthy and middle class parents willing to support schools through financial contributions, and that they should be encouraged to do so.
“Can we, as parents and the government, look for other solutions?” Prof Magoha posed.
“I’ve spoken to many people, including Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (Kessha) chairman Kahi Indimuli, and I know there is a group of Kenyan middle class who won’t mind contributing to better schools. Why is the government saying there’s a blanket ban?
“Can parents and teachers associations be empowered to agree on how much they can contribute as long as the poor, diligent child is not forced to pay?”
Prof Magoha, who was addressing head teachers at their annual conference in Mombasa, however warned them against forcing parents into such projects.
He was responding to complaints by the head teachers that government funding is not enough to foot bills and develop schools, and that many institutions are struggling to pay bills, especially in the wake of increased enrolment as a result of the government’s drive to achieve 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary schools.
The principals said the policy is forcing many schools to grapple with congestion due to limited accommodation capacity.
Many schools do not have enough sanitation facilities, dormitories and classes to take care of the higher student populations, the teachers said.
“This has been very stressful,” said Mr Barrow Sadeko, the principal of Modogashe Secondary School in Lagdera. “Head teachers in boarding schools are facing a very difficult situation as they manage everything with the little funds.”
But Prof Magoha said education gobbles the biggest chunk of the country’s annual budget, and so it would be difficult for him to make a convincing case for a further increase of funds.
“There are 22 Cabinet secretaries and I take 35 per cent of the budget. Who do you think will support me?” he wondered.
To illustrate the gravity of the financing problem, he said schools currently implementing the new Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) require infrastructural support and new learning materials, yet the Ministry of Education has only received Sh1.2 billion for infrastructure.
However, he promised to have a discussion with President Uhuru Kenyatta on how to resolve the cash problems.
At the same time, he pledged to ensure the government allocates enough funds for recruitment of intern teachers.
He was responding to Mr Indimuli’s concerns on the biting shortage of teachers in schools.
Many schools, Mr Indimuli said, use Sh1.2 million every year to pay six teachers on the Board of Management (BoM) terms in order to plug staffing gaps.
“It’s not our responsibility as school managers to use our scarce resources to employ teachers. Our schools are operating on budget deficits, yet we are spending money on employing staff on BoM terms,” he said.
According to the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), teacher shortage in secondary schools has risen to 95,258 from 57,380 last November.
TSC chairperson Lydia Nzomo owned that public schools are facing teacher shortage but asked them to use available resources to improve education quality.
“We’re concerned about the shortage, but we’re coming up with innovative ways to address it. Principals must find a ways of using the scarce resources in schools to teach.
“Use the internet and technological tools to aid learning,” she said. “Great teachers will always find a way of coping without finding all the resources they would like to have.”