"The wealth of the greedy
ultimately goes to the community".
Kenya: Policy On School Texts Requires Urgent Review
Reports about a looming crisis in public schools over the provision of textbooks is worrying.
But they underscore a much deeper problem afflicting schools, and for that matter, the entire education system.
Public schools depend on State funding to procure exercise and textbooks, as well as other teaching and learning materials.
Under an agreement reached in 2003 when the free primary education was launched, textbook sellers provide the materials to schools on credit and are paid once funds are available.
This has worked for a while, but now the arrangement has unravelled due to a Sh2 billion debt.
There are two reasons for this problem. The first is that the disbursement to schools is irregular and second, the amount is inadequate.
The latter is the most troublesome.
The government has consistently given a capitation grant of Sh1,020 a child for the past nine years, yet the cost of living has gone up by leaps and bounds.
Matters got worse last year when the government removed printed books from the list of zero-rated commodities, meaning, that textbooks now attract a 16 per cent value added tax. This has since seen the costs go up by up to 30 per cent.
In addition, the practice of changing textbooks every year has imposed heavy costs on schools and parents.
Yet, sometimes ago, there was a policy that a textbook would be used for at least four years.
Schools were able to reuse the texts and avoid unnecessary expenditure.
A new policy is required on textbooks dealing with the vetting, costing and frequency of content changes.
The government should also devise an effective system of providing funds to schools to enable them purchase the books and other teaching and learning resources directly and on time.
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