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Publishers cry foul

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 24 – The Kenya Publishers Association on Thursday took issue with the government’s recent decision to halve funds earmarked for the purchase of text books for public primary and high schools.

Speaking during the opening of the 12th international book fair in Nairobi, Chairperson of the Publishers’ Association Nancy Karimi said that the government’s decision was uncalled for as the current funds disbursed for the procurement of the said textbooks was not enough.

“The Ministry thinks it has acquired the ratio of one textbook to one student, but the situation on the ground is different. When we do random sampling we find situations where up to 10 students share one textbook. That is very far from the one to one ratio that the ministry is claiming,” she observed.

Mrs Karimi added that there was need for the ministry to increase the funds allocated for school books. She also accused ministry officials in charge of procuring the books of corruption.

“We know that there has been a lot of wastage. There have been many schools that have been buying air. We have had instances where head teachers collude with book sellers to supply fictitious books yet they get money to buy genuine ones,” she revealed.

Mrs Karimi asked the ministry to curb the vice adding that the issue was negatively affecting the education quality in the country.

“We would wish that the ministry looks into this matter to ensure that the money that goes into buying books is used for precisely that. They need to audit the school systems and punish those unscrupulous heads and ministry officials,” she advised.

Lawrence Njagi, Managing Director of Mountain Top Publishers supported Mrs Karimi adding that the move by the government would bring losses to publishers.

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“The decision got us by great surprise not to mention the expected loss of revenue that will come from already printed books,” he noted.

However, Education Assistant Minister, Calistas Mwatela vehemently denied the allegations stating that the issue had been taken out of context. He also added that the publishers’ association was misleading people.

“Yes we are reducing the funds but what the ministry is saying is that books last longer than a year or two years. We cannot continue giving the same amounts for the next 10 or 15 years. That money can be used in other developments. Even if you were running a business that is exactly what you would do,” stated the assistant Minister.

He also said that the ministry was working on measures to reduce fraud. This followed a question directed to him asking what long term measures the ministry was putting in place to prevent future frauds such as the one the ministry’s officials had been implicated in involving World Bank funding.

“These are challenges, not necessarily at the ministry’s headquarter level. They exist everywhere. When you disburse money, you disburse it to people who may opt to use it for the wrong thing. As a ministry we have embarked on revising some directions that will see to the reduction of such instances,” he explained.


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