Head teachers swarm banks for loans to reopen schools
Irene Githinji and Noven Owiti
School heads are working against the clock to secure financing ahead of Monday’s reopening of learning institutions.
A number of cash-strapped schools are rushing to financial institutions to secure loans to establish recommended Covid-19 protocols ahead of resumption of lessons next week.
The rush came even as the government announced yesterday it had released the free education funds to public primary and secondary schools ahead of Monday when the first batch of learners, Form Four, Class Eight and Grade Four learners, is expected to report.
Speaking in Kisumu, Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha announced the government had released the funds to facilitate learning once schools reopen.
He said the National Treasury had released all funds meant for schools and that the institutions will receive the money by today.
Prof Magoha cautioned principals against turning learners away for lack of fees when schools reopen, noting that the government was keen on ensuring students are retained in school by sending the capitation money.
“No Kenyan child in the boarding secondary school section should be sent home because of school fees.
Every child must be admitted and the issue of fees will be sorted out later,” said Magoha.
A survey by People Daily revealed that hundreds of school heads were turning to lending institutions for quick loans to enable them to put in place Covid-19 protocols ahead of next week.
Borrowing from banks
Majority of the head teachers interviewed said they had resorted to borrowing from banks after the government delayed in disbursing funds to schools but insisted that they equip their schools with various protocols to contain infections once learners return.
Kenya Private Schools Association (KPSA) chief executive Peter Ndoro said they sought alternative financial solutions to prepare for reopening.
The special loan facility, he added, takes into consideration the challenges schools have undergone in the seven months learning was suspended.
“We sought credit facilities from banks such as KCB, Equity, Family, Cooperative and Absa to enable private schools to re-open.
However, schools will be thoroughly vetted first and only those that will show capacity to repay will benefit,” said Ndoro.
He stated that the Sh7 billion loan facility they sought from the Government is in the pipeline and they are optimistic the process will be expedited.
“The loans are very flexible but schools will only take based on their needs,” explained Ndoro.
He said the association had received notifications from 196 schools that had completely shut down, which will see at least 56,000 learners affected and that they are consulting with the Ministry of Education and the Kenya National Examination Council (Knec) to establish alternative test centres for those affected by the closure.
Last week, KCB rolled out a wide range of financial solutions for learning institutions as schools prepare for reopening.
KCB Group Chief Executive Officer Joshua Oigara said the financial solutions will enable both public and private schools to access loan facilities towards complying with health guidelines set by ministries of Education and Health.
And yesterday, Oigara said the bank had disbursed loans to a number of institutions ranging from Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres to primary and secondary schools.
“There is a very high appetite for these facilities as schools are working extra hard to meet the protocols and guidelines set by the ministries of Education and Health regarding reopening of the institutions,” Oigara said.
“We have received numerous requests across our entire branch network.
The range of loans is really dependent on the size of school, their requirements and ability to pay.”
He explained that KCB had restructured loans and overdrafts worth more than Sh1 billion for learning institutions since the pandemic struck and the institutions will continue enjoying a repayment holiday as they resume operations.
Already, Magoha has stated that the aspect of social distancing cannot be achieved in basic institutions and will have to do with other protection measures such as masks, hand washing and sanitisers.
“Although physical distancing will remain a challenge, it should not be used as a bottleneck to keep away from school,” said Magoha on Monday.
Last week, Magoha told the National Assembly Education Committee that the budgeted funds were almost exhausted by First Term with only funds available being for co-curricular activities. These unutilised funds lapsed at the end of the Financial Year.
“The ministry is now implementing programmes based on the approved budget for the current 2020/2021 financial year.
In this regard, last financial year capitation grants cannot, therefore, be utilised for infrastructure development,” explained Magoha.
He said the current financial year’s capitation funds are being utilised to pay for essential costs in secondary schools including water, electricity, administrative costs, and medical insurance and personnel emoluments.
Public school head teachers have been concerned about the status of schools, saying there has not been improvement to infrastructure since learning was suspended seven months ago, and most of them were in a sorry state.
Kenya Primary Schools Heads Association (Kepsha) chairman, Nicholas Gathemia, said they were waiting for facilitation for purposes of infrastructure improvement.
“Much as teachers were recalled back to schools, nothing much is happening.
There is need for a way forward so that we can be fully prepared once the Ministry of Education announces dates for learning to resume,” he said last week.
The Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet), speaking before Magoha’s announced the release of the funds yesterday, urged the Treasury to expeditiously release capitation money to keep children in schools as the economic situation stabilises.
Kuppet Secretary-General Akelo Misori said capitation funds will also assist in infrastructure development required to control spread of Covid-19, noting many schools have made little progress to make them ready for resumption of learning.
Even the new desks currently being procured by the ministry are yet to reach targeted schools.
“The Government must pull up its socks in dealing with the situation in schools.
The successful reopening of schools will require sacrifices of all education stakeholders,” said Misori.
He said early release of capitation will go a long way in cushioning parents who are adversely affected by Covid-19 and are anxious about school fees.
Speaking during a tour of the Kisumu National Polytechnic yesterday, Magoha defended the move to reopen schools amid the Covid-19 pandemic, saying the decision was unanimously reached after thorough education stakeholders consultations.
“The key driver for opening schools is that the public was not happy that our children were going to lose one academic year,” he said.
He noted that despite criticism from certain quarters regarding the partial reopening, a majority of parents are happy with the steps taken by the government.
He stated that reopening schools was the right step while pleading with parents to accept the decision and prepare their children to resume learning.
Magoha said the Ministry of Education would keenly observe partial learning for the three classes before making a determination to re-open all schools.