By Bedah Mengo NAIROBI, (Xinhua) --
Political campaigns have heated up in
Kenya, with leaders criss-crossing the country making a number
of promises that they vow to implement when they get into power.
Kenyatta and his main challenger Raila Odinga of the National
Super Alliance (NASA) have made several promises, but one that
stands out and has caught the imagination of Kenyans is the
introduction of free education from the kindergarten to the
secondary school level.
Education at the
primary school level in Kenya is currently free although parents
buy books and school uniforms for their children.
On the other hand,
at the secondary level, education is subsidized with the
government paying some 100 U.S. dollars for the more than two
million pupils in close to 40,000 public schools across the
further pays examination fees of between 5 dollars and 24
dollars for students in primary and secondary schools.
If elected in next
month’s polls, President Kenyatta has promised to introduce free
education from the nursery level to the secondary level starting
On the other hand,
his main competitor Odinga has vowed to ensure students learn
for free from the nursery to secondary level starting this
And Odinga does not
stop there, he has said parents would not fork out any cent to
educate their children as the government would buy school
uniform, pens, books and other learning materials for the
millions of students in the country.
The promises have
excited the electorate from both political divides as it is a
win-win situation for the voter whether they elect Kenyatta or
“I am happy that for
once I will not pay school fees for my four children since the
government will take care of their education,” Sylvia Wanambisi,
a kindergarten teacher in Nairobi, said Tuesday.
Wanambisi noted that
she spends up to 1,300 dollars annually on school fees, with the
bulk of the money going to her two children who are in secondary
“One is in Form Two
and the other in Form One. About 1,000 dollars goes on their
school fees with the rest going to pocket money, books and
school uniform. My husband and I struggle to pay the money and
most of it comes from loans. It would be a big relief if this
burden is lifted,” she said.
Simon Kariuki, a
grains trader in Nakuru said he is eager to see his children go
to school without him coughing up any cent.
“It would be the
best thing to happen to my family as paying school fees is a
very big burden. I have two children in public primary school
and I pay minimal money for their education. If the government
would take care of everything, I would be very happy,” he said.
He noted that with
education off his burden, he would be able to offer his children
a better life and save for their higher education.
“Life has become
tougher. It is very expensive to buy food, pay rent and
transport especially for people like us who have irregular
incomes,” said Kariuki, capturing the sentiments of thousands of
parents in the East African nation.
currently stands at slightly above 10 percent pushed up by high
cost of basic commodities including sugar, vegetables, maize
flour and milk.
While some parents
have welcomed the promises, others are skeptical noting they
make kill quality of education at the secondary level.
“My fear is that
secondary schools in particular may experience an upsurge of
students leading to drop in standards of education as it
happened when the government introduced free primary education
in 2003. Myself I went to a public primary school but I could
not take my child to a government institution because children
are barely learning there,” said James Ochieng, a parent in
Ochieng noted that
when politicians promise to implement the policy, they should
also work out on how to improve standards of education by
employing more teachers and building classrooms.
Henry Wandera, an
economics lecturer in Nairobi, noted that free education is the
best gift a government can give its people but quality should
not be compromised.
“Right now most
middle-income families are not enjoying free primary education
because of declined standards in public schools. Instead parents
are spending huge sums of money in private schools. To help
everyone, standards of education should be upheld especially in
secondary schools,” Wandera said.
warned that with the government footing the education bill from
collected taxes, some parents may become irresponsible and sire
more children thus burdening the country.