Crisis looms as Treasury slashes Sh15.4b JSS funds

Wednesday, May 15th, 2024 03:30 | By
JSS teachers from Meru county stage demonstrations to push the government employ them on permanent and pensionable terms. PHOTO/Dorcas Mbatia
JSS teachers from Meru County stage demonstrations to push the government employ them on permanent and pensionable terms. PHOTO/Dorcas Mbatia

Learners are staring at a crisis after the National Treasury slashed monies meant for Junior Secondary School (JSS) and school feeding programmes.

Lawmakers who sit in the education committee chaired by Tinderet MP Julius Melly were shocked to learn that the Treasury had reduced capitation to JSS by a whooping Sh15.4 billion thus affecting about one million learners.

The MPs also heard that the entire budget of Sh4.9 billion meant for the school feeding programme had been done away with, thus putting at risk the lives of 4.5 learners who depend on school meals to remain in school.

The budget cut for JSS is the latest setback for a sector that has been paralysed by ongoing strike by teachers.

Schools reopened on Monday after the Easter long holiday on a day Junior Secondary teachers held demonstrations across the country to protest the Teachers Service Commission’s (TSC) refusal to employ them on permanent and pensionable terms.

The intern teachers accused TSC) of defying a court order that had instructed it to employ them and vowed to stay away from schools in a bid to paralyse learning activities.

They cited a ruling by the Employment and Labour Relations Court, which nullified the internship status for trained, registered and licensed teachers despite the court giving the TSC a grace period to oblige.

John Melvin who led the intern teachers in a demonstration from the Green Park Bus Terminus to the TSC headquarters in Capitol Hill, said they would stage such protests each week until the government heeds to their demands.

“As we look forward to resume learning in second term 2024, we call upon all parents to make prior academic arrangements for their sons and daughters as Junior secondary school teachers will stay away from school,” Melvin said.

They demanded that the government allocate funds to have all intern JSS teachers employed on permanent and pensionable terms of service starting June 2024 failure to which no Junior Secondary School teacher will be reporting to school in third term of 2024.

They also want the government to compensate them for the services they have offered in the past one year on the basis of illegal internship contracts with immediate effect as a show of good faith.

“The unions and parents have all abandoned us, we are on own yet we are the one’s tasked with the implementation of the competence Based Curriculum. This precedent set by the Ministry of Education, Teachers Service Commission emboldens unethical employers to subject Kenyans to punitive and exploitative labour practices home and abroad,” Melvin said.

Also affected are 12,672 special needs learners whose Sh453 million was not provided for in the budget. The learners are eligible for a boarding fee at the rate of Sh35,730 per student.

While appearing before the committee, Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang raised concerns that children’s lives were at risk as their right to free education is now not guaranteed.

“We are requesting this house that issues of equity and treating our children the same way everywhere will be compromised if we do not get this money,” the PS said.

Feeding programme

He added: “If we comprise the school feeding programme, we comprise Article 53 of the Constitution. My request to this house is please let us get this money back because the process of budget making lies solely on this house.”

Article 53 CoK recognises the right of all children to be protected from abuse, neglect, harmful cultural practices, and all forms of violence.

In his submission before the committee, the PS also regretted that in the 2024/2025 financial year, the areas that had been underfunded includes the Free Primary Education, the Free Junior secondary education, Free Day secondary Education and School Examination and Invigilation area.

PS Kipsang also raised concerns that that aside from the Sh15.4 billion meant for JSS, the recurrent budget had been reduced by Sh7 billion inclusive of the Sh4.9 billion school feeding programme, Sh1.5 billion under Free Day Secondary education capitation, Sh1.2 billion under Free Primary education capitation and Sh347 million under operations and maintenance.

On JSS he explained although they have been allocated Sh30.66 billion, the total requirement is Sh46. 1 billion.

Increased enrolment

The money, he said, will cater for an increased enrolment of 3,289,450 learners from January to June 2025 from 2170 429 learners between July to December 2024.

On funding for Junior School special needs education, Kipsang raised concerns that Sh453 million to cater for 12,672 learners who will be eligible for boarding fee at a rate of Sh35,730 was not provided for in the budget.

On funds required to put up learning resource centres and classrooms for Grade 9 in the JSS, he regretted that they have a funding gap of Sh621 million as out of the Sh3.4 billion required, they have only been allocated Sh2.8 billion.

He said: “The additional allocation will facilitate more learners at the rate of Sh15,042. However, there is still a gap deficit of Sh15.449 billion to cover all learners.”

With regards to Free Day Secondary school education, Kipsang regretted that they have a funding gap of Sh12.7 billion as they were only allocated Sh63.9 billion against a requirement of Sh76.7 billion.

In his submission, he explained that the enrolment in Free day secondary education is expected to be 4,253,155 between July to December 2024 then decline to 3, 244, 325 learners between January to June 2025.

The reduction of learners he said is as a result of having form 2,3 and 4 only since there will be no learners joining form one in January 2025 although the clarified that the cost per learner Sh22,224.

On funding for senior school special needs education, he regretted that they have a shortfall of Sh586 million as out of the total requirement of Sh786 million, they were only allocated Sh200 million which can only cater for 5,597 learners at the rate of Sh25,730 out of the eligible 21,999 learners.

He said: “If all learners are facilitated with capitation against the proposed budget of Sh63.886 billion in the financial year 2024/25 proposed budget, then every learner will receive about Sh18,757 only.

On the other hand, if learners are to receive full capitation of Sh22,244 as per the current policy, then 1,381,100 will not be funded in term 111 of 2024 academic and 372,270 learners will not be funded in Terms 1 and 11 in 2025 academic year.”

On the school examination invigilation fees, he regretted that they have a funding gap of Sh15.9 billion as they were only allocated Sh30.7 billion out of the total requirement of Sh46.1 billion.

The allocation, he said is inadequate to cater for the requirement of Sh8.8 billion which is insufficient to cater for all administration costs including payment of examiners and invigilators.

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