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MUST READ: Let’s do away with school bursaries and try other workable alternatives

By Jaymo Wa Thika

Education is a human right and is central to achieving many other sustainable development outcomes. It is also a key driver for reducing poverty, fostering economic growth, achieving gender equality, and social development.

Some of the factors that prevent our children from getting quality education nowadays include lack of relevant learning materials, school fees, uniforms and other essential learning enhancers that millions of families are unable to afford.

This was what our late beloved former President Mwai Kibaki tried to solve when he introduced free primary and secondary education, benefits of which have never been fully enjoyed by the majority poor in this country.

It is in the same breath that leaders thought of introducing scholarships and bursaries to assist bright learners from humble backgrounds, who could not however afford joining secondary school for lack of fees.

However, issuance of bursaries has since been abused by a majority of the political leadership and now used as a dangling carrot for political mileage. In majority of our 290 constituencies and 47 county governments, the exercise has ended up as a Public Relations (PR) exercise for the cameras just to build the political careers of those issuing them.

Many a times, those who benefit from these bursaries are those connected to the powers that be and those in the “good books” of the political class in question.

The procedure of selecting the deserving cases is majorly a complete sham. Majority of those who benefit from these bursaries are people who can afford to pay these fees; their only “poverty” is connection with the powers that be. This leaves out very many deserving cases.

This explains why we get so many appeals for help to take poor children to school even after these bursaries have been issued.

I would like to single the manner in which Equity Foundation identifies beneficiaries for the Wings To Fly Programme, very transparent and very thorough. Likewise, the Elimu Scholarship Programme, M-PESA Foundation and many other similar other foundations do a very thorough exercise to identify deserving cases.

However, the amount of money these organisations have for the exercise is usually limited and can only benefit just a few students as compared to the Ksh. 20 million set aside for NG-CDF bursaries per constituency every year.

Educating these children is investing in our future and we should not gamble with the future of this country for very short-term selfish political gains.

It is very unfortunate that in this country, no politician really loves an independent electorate…. An electorate who will not come to them for handouts or for petty assistance. Politicians thrive in deficiency and will always work behind the scenes to ensure that their electorate always have something to cry home about so that they (the politicians) will rush to them as the “saviour”.

Politicians prefer the status quo since it benefits them politically. Yes. They want desperate parents to throng their offices to beg for bursaries so that once given, they will go home doing the “Firirinda” dance in praise of this politician and claiming that, were it not for that particular politician, their children would not have gone back to school.

That is dragging our people into mental slavery….. Simply infecting our people with this deadly virus known as “Politically Dependency Syndrome”.

Our Constitution provides for free and compulsory basic education as a human right for every Kenyan child. Free primary education, for instance, is not a new policy in Kenya.

Those who schooled in the 1970s can attest to the government funded Kenya School Equipment Scheme which provided exercise books, textbooks and stationary to all primary school going children. Under the same scheme, all public schools had radio sets for the then vibrant radio education programmes.


The municipal council-aided primary schools also had watchmen, secretaries, general janitors who cleaned toilets for the kids etc….. all paid by the local authorities. The schools electricity and water bills were also settled by the municipal councils.

However, it is in the 1980s and 1990s that things went south after the introduction of “cost-sharing” which asked parents to pay for their children’s education. This made education expensive and a preserve of those who could afford it.

My question is….. What worked then with the Kenya School Equipment Scheme that cannot work now or be improved upon to benefit all levels of education from the Early Childhood Education (ECDE) level up to the university?

It only boils down to political goodwill. It is possible. It is doable.

Why would government offer bursaries to children born of poor parents instead of channeling that money directly to learning institutions and ensuring that education is absolutely free? To put this in a language that you can understand; This is government giving you government money (bursary) to pay government school fees. It doesn’t make sense. It is like getting a Ksh. 1,000 note from your left-hand side pocket of your pair of trousers to pay the pocket on the right-hand side of your pair of trousers.

These so many numerous exchange of hands dealing with the same money are simply avenues by leaders to gain access of public funds…. These bureaucracies and bottlenecks were developed through government policies that were meant to create loopholes to steal from the exchequer.

The government can also make it unattractive for people to seek bursaries by empowering them to be self-reliant. If one is stable financially, they will not spend hours on open grounds roasting in the scorching sun just to receive a Ksh. 2,000 bursary. They would instead prefer to pay from their own savings and save themselves the shame of begging for bursaries and losing their dignity in the eyes of their own children.

It’s my personal feeling that bursaries should be done away with and instead, the government comes up with alternative policies guiding the channeling of the same money directly to schools in material form, where possible, rather than in liquid cash.

On the same breath, the government should empower its people economically and then demand them to pay for their own school fees? They say, “Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll eat for a lifetime.

But will politicians support this? A very BIG NO. Doing so is working their way to losing a massive voting bloc. They survive through the creation of a desperate society who believes that politicians are gods and have answers to all their immediate problems. That is the reason people adore politicians who feed them on handouts and goodies that only last for hours.

If you critically analyse the kind of programmes that politicians initiate within their jurisdictions, you will realise that most of them are skewed towards enclosing the beneficiaries into some cocoons where will merry-go-round the same economic status forever.  Very few politicians work on programmes that completely transform their people into full economic freedom and if they do, these programmes only benefit those very close to them, for obvious reasons, their own political expediency and not for the good of the entire society.

All these are schemes are geared towards enslaving the masses into voting machines. Politicians only want to use people as tools to serve the achievement of their (politicians) own ends.  Politicians are there to serve their own interests, not yours. That’s the hard reality.

Politicians are happy to serve a gullible and ignorant society who easily buys into their mischievous and populist decisions just to get cheap publicity. Critical thinkers who question political mediocrity are branded as enemies and politicians will ensure that such people will never sit near the political table. Politicians feel so comfortable while being surrounded by their “Yes Sir” supporters who will cheer and clap for them even when they are walking naked in public.

It’s high time Kenyans woke up from this deep slumber and start redefining their own destiny and that of future generations. Luckily, the society is growing younger and more enlightened by the day thanks to the internet and we should never let such opportunities just fly away without taking advantage of them.

Let’s start to seriously vet those we entrust into leadership positions and ensure we only contract those with a vision for the good of the whole society and not just a few. Kumbuka, Msipojipanga, mtaendelea tu kupangwa.



1 comment:

  1. Jaymo wa Thika, this time you have talked like ten wise men .


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