Kenyans could soon be enjoying free secondary school education from next year, if a report presented to the president is implemented.
The report, which was presented by a task-force on education chaired by former education Assistant Minister Kilemi Mwiria who has since been appointed presidential adviser on education, recommends among other things;
• The introduction of free secondary education from January 2015;
• Stop registration of new public schools and proper regulation and expansion of those in existence;
• Automatic progression from primary to post-primary education.
• The report proposes two ways in which the government can achieve free secondary school education:
FREE SECONDARY EDUCATION
Scenario 1: The Government to meet the costs of teaching and learning materials, operational costs and meals.
In this scenario the Government is meant to provide a capitation grant of Kshs 23,975 to these costs in all public schools.
The capitation grant for day schools should be free while boarding and special needs schools should be Kshs 33,108 and Kshs 16,704 respectively.
The team recommends that the Government should raise the capitation grant by Kshs 11,105 per student.
With the existing enrolment of 2,144,069 students, the government will require to raise a total of Kshs 51.5 billion annually allowing for projected growth of 8%.
Scenario 2: The Government to meet teaching and learning materials and related operational costs, excluding meals.
The taskforce proposes student fees for day schools to be Kshs 5,861 and Kshs 38,969 per student per year for those who opt for boarding schools and Kshs 22,565 for special needs schools.
This will translate to Kshs 36.8 billion for Free Secondary School Education in 2015. In this scenario the government will be required to raise an additional Kshs 10.8 billion over and above the current allocation.
While receiving the report, President Uhuru Kenyatta publicly announced his support of the recommendations in the report but maintained that stakeholders will be fully consulted before the implementations.
“I fully support the recommendations and I agree with the fact that we can manage our education much better. I totally agree with the issue of not continually opening new schools without first streamlining and utilizing those already in existence,”
The Task Force was appointed by Uhuru in February and was mandated to review secondary school fees with a view to making quality education accessible and affordable to all Kenyan children.
FREE EDUCATION SHOULD COME WITH QUALITY EDUCATION
Kenyans are already enjoying Free Primary Education (FPE), which was introduced during the administration of former President, Mwai Kibaki. Despite the myriad of challenges that came with the introduction of FPE, including congestion and compromises in the quality of education, the system provided an opportunity to access basic education to scores of children who had earlier been locked out of school due to lack of school fees.
There was increased enrolments from 5.8 million children in December 2002 to 7.2 million in May 2003, a GER of 104%.
The private sector, which provides about 20% (MOE Statistical Unit) of education in the country is always seen as the ideal environment for learners as far as the quality of education is concerned but unfortunately majority of Kenyans cannot afford them because of high costs.
Introducing free secondary education is certainly a step in the right direction, especially coming at a time when Kenyans are grappling with high costs of inflation but the government should ensure that the quality of education in the public sector is not compromised otherwise access to ‘quality’ education will remain a preserve of the rich.