, MOMBASA, Kenya, Sept 14 – The government plans to cut its text book allocations for free primary education next January and redirect funds to infrastructure development.
Education Minister Sam Ongeri said on Monday that the ministry has already achieved its desired pupil-to-book ratio and “it will be of no use to continue buying more text books.”
“When the free primary education was starting in 2003, the pupil: book ratio was 7:1 but now we have narrowed the gap to 1:1,” said Prof Ongeri at the sidelines of a regional conference on peace education in Mombasa.
Since its inception in 2003 each child has been receiving Sh650 yearly for the purchase of learning materials, including textbooks and Sh370 for operation.
Annually the ministry spends Sh5.6 billion for learning materials for the over 8.6 million children in primary schools.
The decision to cut expenditure on text book was arrived at after the ministry undertook a ‘value for money’ audit on the free primary education programme.
Education Permanent Secretary Karega Mutahi, who accompanied the Minister said only 4,000 primary schools out of the over 18,000 were yet to reach the targeted pupil to book ratio.
“We are currently conducting an audit on why these schools have not reached the target,” said Prof Karega.
He said the ministry is investigating allegations of text book theft in some of these schools.
The PS said it has emerged that some schools had more text books than they needed.
Extra money saved will then be channeled towards other areas of need such as infrastructure, building of more classrooms, laboratories, in-service training of teachers as well as the crucial school feeding programmes.
The decision comes at a time when there is speculation that key donors had pulled out of funding the text book component under the free learning programme.
It also emerged that donors had pulled out of funding the instructional materials aspect of the programme but still funds crucial components such as the school feeding programme and infrastructure.
Donors thought it wise that there was no point of buying more textbooks as those bought for the last six years were more than enough.
The internal report at the ministry also indicated that some schools could not account for textbooks bought since the programme started.
The umbrella association of publishers has also raised the red flag that 50 percent of the funds released annually for textbooks were not being spent on the intended purpose.
“We have already achieved what we targeted for and buying books to lie on shelves will not help us,” said Prof Ongeri.