Government Shuts Down Own 1,665 Public Schools
Starting and running a government school requires a lot of tax payers’ money and rules to be followed. In the 2020-21 financial year, the government of Kenya allocated Sh14.5 billion for free primary education and Sh32 billion for subsidized secondary education. Despite investing all the money, the government last year shut down more than 1000 public schools for not complying with the laid down standards.
The numbers come from the Kenya Economic Survey 2020 .It says that 955 public primary and 710 secondary schools were closed by the Ministry of Education.
The Kenya National Union of Teachers secretary general Wilson Sossion supports the ministry’s crackdown on schools that have violated the law.
“Some people are corrupt and the government should be tough in enforcing laws. Any school whether public or private that doesn’t meet the basic standards of establishment should be closed down,” Sossion told RoGGKenya.
4,837 private primary and secondary schools were shut during the countrywide assessment, bringing the number to 6,502.
What the law says
Section 43 of the Basic Education Act 2013, defines public schools as educational institutions “established, owned and operated by the government”, unlike private schools owned by individuals, mostly to earn a living.
Closing these institutions not only exposes a laxity in enforcing laws, but also a waste of taxpayers’ money. Hundreds of teachers lost their jobs after the closure of these schools, while learners were forced to transfer to other schools.
Some schools were closed, because they were not registered with the education ministry. Others had dilapidated structures risking the lives of learners, while others exceeded their enrollment capacities without approval by the ministry.
Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha in October 2019 revealed that there were 3,000 unregistered schools in the country. This was after shutting down 2,000 similar schools.
Magoha thinks the number of unregistered schools are mushrooming because quality assurance officers to conduct inspections every term. He said they even can take as long as six years instead of every term.
Schools were also closed down because they had changed their status or they were run by teachers not registered by the Teachers Service Commission.
An unregistered person offering education is liable for conviction to at least Sh20 million fine or a jail term not exceeding three years or both. This is according to Section 78 (3) of the Act.
Section 43 (2) of the Basic Education Act prohibits turning a public school into a private institution without consultation and approval from the Education Cabinet Secretary.
How the government funds public schools
The government draws resources from public coffers to establish and manage public schools. These include acquisition of land, registration, construction of classrooms, hiring teachers and paying fees for learners through capitation funding, among other expenses.
The Economic Survey notes that the country had 89,337 basic learning institutions in 2019. Public primary and secondary schools amounted to 32,219. The government funds public schools based on the number of learners in its free primary education and subsidized secondary education programmes.
Every pupil in primary school is allocated Sh1,420 , while their counterparts in secondary school receive Sh22, 244 each for their academic costs.
The government allocated Sh14.5 billion for free primary education and Sh32 billion for subsidized secondary education in the running 2020-21 financial year.
The allocations also cater for the payment of suppliers and non-teaching staff, school maintenance, clearance of bills like electricity, among other operational expenses.
“Our children need a safe learning environment and quality education but not people opening public or private schools left, right and centre just to make money,” said Sossion.
Crackdown on non-compliant schools
The Education Cabinet Secretary in September 2019 launched a nationwide inspection and crackdown exercise on schools that don’t comply with the quality and standards regulations.
The exercise was in response to the collapse of classrooms at Precious Talent Primary School in Dagoretti South, Nairobi, which killed eight pupils and injured more than 50.
Mbaarua Primary School in Meru County with 300 pupils and Nagele Public School in Lamu County are among thousands of government schools shut down. Nagele public school only had seven pupils.
The education ministry even asked parents to check the registration status of schools their children attend .Because if the schools are shut then they will fall victims.
There is need to improve the working record of relevant government officers charged with enforcing the ministry’s regulations.
Part IX of the Basic Education Act created the Education Standards and Quality Assurance Council to ensure standards and quality are maintained in schools.
The Council was officially established in 2015, but it’s impact is yet to be felt. It only swings into action when a disaster occurs.
Its Quality Assurance officers have the power to recommend temporary suspension of operations of a school for a specific period until the basic standards are met.
The county director of education is also empowered to maintain quality assurance and standards for schools under Section 54 of the Act.
This director is charged with overseeing infrastructure development, proper management and maintenance of school buildings and property.
The Basic Education Regulations of 2015 outline requirements public and private schools should comply with in their operation.
For instance, Regulation 64 demands a school to have standard classrooms measuring 7m by 6m accommodating 50 pupils for primary school and 45 students for secondary schools.
Standard classrooms for pre-primary should measure 7m x 6m accommodating 25 learners, sanitary facilities for both genders and administrative offices, among others.
The school should have outdoor playing facilities and equipment. Also learners with disabilities should be provided with outdoor and indoor facilities and equipment.
Majority of schools closed down across the country lacked these essential facilities.
Some schools shut in Uasin Gishu County were run in dilapidated, small, mud-walled classrooms with makeshift latrines, exposing learners to serious danger.
The majority of public schools in Nairobi City County comply with legal standards. A random spot-check by RoGGKenya in Westlands and Dagoretti North constituencies confirmed that.
However, some private schools haven’t complied with the law since many are squeezed on small pieces of land with little space for learners’ playgrounds.
RoGGKenya’s efforts to get comments from the Ministry of Education was futile. The ministry did not comment on how public schools shut down were established and if they were benefiting from the multi-million-shilling capitation funding programme. Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha neither picked phone calls nor responded to text messages for an interview.
What journalists should do:
- Highlight the number of private and public schools shut down and the impact on learners, teachers, parents and non-teaching employees.
- Find out how government-owned public schools that were shut down were started. Also find out if they were being funded by taxpayers.
- Explain to your audience what the Basic Education Act 2013 and other laws and regulations states, when it comes to starting and owning a school.
- Find out the amount of money public primary and secondary schools receive from the government.
- Inform the public about the standards various schools violated leading to their closure.
- State the Ministry of Education’s response to public school shut downs and collect comments from the teachers or parents’ union officials.