Despite decades of independence Kenya education has continued to be a two-tier system under which the lucky kids of leading politicians and wealthy businesspeople enjoy the benefits of Private School education while the poor continue to put up with second or third Government best under protest. This is a social tragedy found in all developing countries although this does not justify the norm in any way.
Early this year several Head Teachers at Kenya Schools that returned poor 2010 examination results had to bear the brunt of community frustration, when they were locked out and some even roughed up. Questions are now being asked whether learning will take off as planned this year at all.
These simmering tensions have finally produced some results and on Monday the Kenya Government announced the release of 6 billion better-timed Kenya Shillings (approximately $775 million US Dollars) for the expansion of its free learning program and the raising of performance targets in Public Schools. According to Permanent Education Secretary James ole Kiyiapi funds were immediately available to Secondary Schools and at Primary Schools next week. He has been quoted as saying that “this follows a new arrangement where the government will be sending the free learning funds to Schools at the beginning of every term for ease in planning”. Previously his Department sent money by fiscal year that played havoc with academic needs.
Under the new arrangement 50% of the funds will be released at the beginning of the 1st Term, 30% at the beginning of the 2nd Term, and the balance when the Final Term begins. “This is a part of reforms we are implementing in remitting the free learning money so that schools can plan accordingly," the Permanent Education Secretary added. “[Previously] suppliers sometimes failed to deliver to Schools since the government released the money late”.
Unfortunately the budget per Student for tuition and learning materials has remained at 1.020 Shillings per Primary School Learner and 10.265 Shillings per Secondary Student per year respectively since 2003. That averages less that a single American Dollar on the cross rates. This stands harshly judged against the annual 180,000 Shillings the Kenya wealthy pay on average per Private School Education Child. Inflation has bitten deeply into what the poor receive - at the beginning of this year alone School Text Books went up 12%
Many poor Kenya children have dreams. They dream of becoming doctors, scientists and teachers who return to their villages too. Could it be possible that some day every Kenya child will have access to a computer and begin to scan the great library in the sky we call the internet. Until then, there is less than one American Dollar a year available for each of them and not much hope for peasant children for years to come.