Public outcry over unfair allocation of scholarships to needy students
Roy Lumbe, Wangari Njuguna and Noel Owiti
Education stakeholders have called for the transfer of bursaries for secondary school students back to the national government to enhance transparency and equity in the distribution of the funds to needy students.
This follows complaints by parents, teachers and education oficers of unfair systems being used to allocate the various bursaries to needy students, which they partly blame for failure of more than 400,000 pupils who sat KCPE last year to join Form One by last week.
Governors, Members of Parliament, Ward representatives, county Women reps, corporates such as Equity Bank and Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) issue the bursaries.
An additional 9,000 scholarships have been awarded this year to students from poor families by the State via the Elimu programme, yet many disadvantaged students have failed to join secondary schools.
Kenya Union of Post-Primary Teachers (Kuppet) Executive secretary Nakuru branch Eliud Wanjohi says it is evident that those mandated to issue the bursaries to needy students in their regions are unable to effectively manage the funds.
“The current bursary system is skewed. The government should streamline the process to ensure transparency and equity,” he says, adding that the bursary programme is being exploited by managers.
“Students whose families can afford school fees often apply and are awarded bursaries. Some are even allocated money from all the channels. A database needs to be in place,” he said.
He warned that many leaders were using the bursaries to gain political mileage instead of assisting needy students. “Only those from locations aligned to the leader get the funds,” he added.
He said the programme should reverted to the ministry of Education and streamlined to ensure needy students get a chance to advance their education.
“Most of them are left confused since nearly all leaders dish out bursaries, but many deserving cases don’t get anything,” he warned.
The unionist said he had handled a case in which a student was issued with three bursaries in one term.
“This is why we need a central issuance point he government should work with the chiefs and locate needy students.
Why should a needy student hungry for education be politically aligned for her to be given a bursary?” he asked.
Kisumu county’s Pandpieri Primary School head teacher Veronica Otieno regretted unfairness in the issue of government bursaries as many needy students end up missing due to poor communication channels and unfairness in selection criteria.
Otieno recommends that school administrators should be involved in the bursary distribution; a move she says will ensure needy and most deserving students become beneficiaries.
“The bursary selection should be done at the school with the input of school heads who know the background of the pupils better,” she says.
Otieno blames socio-economic factors among them poverty for the failure by most students to transit to secondary school.
She said most parents live on less than Sh100 per day and have no savings to educate their children. They depend on bursaries, which do not cater for all.
Despite the government’s efforts to mobilise 100 per cent transition for student from primary to secondary schools, thousands of pupils are likely to miss out due lack of fees.
This is in spite of the various initiatives by the State, corporates and well-wishers to enable bright but needy students to join Form One.
Parents who spoke to Scholar said even if the government purports to be providing free education, the burden has not become any easier for them.
hey said the money required for admission to Form One was too high for them to afford.
Already, some candidates have been forced to repeat Class Eight or go to cheaper schools.
Andiwo Obondoh, an education expert working as a technical advisor with the Regional Education and Learning Institute Africa (RELI) told Scholar thousands of deserving but needful students from poor backgrounds are unable to secure the bursaries in what he reckons to be either a wrong way of issuing the bursaries or money being allocated to undeserving students.
A parent from Murang’a who sought anonymity said she could not afford to raise money to buy uniform and books for her son who sat KCPE in 2018 to join a local day school.
“I am considering keeping my son longer at home before enrolling him in a polytechnic for him to get vocational training.
This would not be the best decision for a parent to take but education has become very expensive,” she said.
She claimed that the criteria of identifying needy students who need bursaries and scholarships was biased as some who were more deserving did not get the chance.
Murang’a county government gave bursaries to 1,000 students to join Form One under the programme dubbed Nyota Zetu, bringing the number of students under the project to 2,000 as another batch of 1,000 was enlisted lin 2019.
Local MPs, through the National Government – Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF) kitty have also chipped in give bursaries to needy students. Other organisation such as Ahadi Kenya has close to 100 students under its scholarship.
Area governor Mwangi Wa Iria said no student who sat for the KCPE should miss out on Form One admissions due to lack of fees.
In Homa Bay county, nearly 4, 000 KCPE candidates expected to join secondary institutions are yet to do so. Out of the 31,176 pupils who sat KCPE test in 2019, only 27, 397 have reported to secondary school.
County Commissioner Yatich Kipkemei said the whereabouts of 3,779 remains unknown.
“I have instructed all relevant government officials to ensure 100 per cent transition is achieved. I have also told chiefs and their assistants to ensure they pass the message in public barazas,” he said.
Kipkemboi said some of the candidates might have come from other counties and have since moved back to join high school in their home counties .
“Others could have been married off or gave birth after KCPE,” he said.
The Commissioner said he would issue a comprehensive statement this week after Form One reporting dates expire.
“We will trace all candidates as this has been a problem in this county. We will ensure they all join secondary school as this is the wish of the State,” he added.