Collapse of multibillion-school books cartel

Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i during a function at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) in Nairobi. [Photo: Willis Awandu, Standard]

The multi-billion-shilling textbook business is facing collapse after the Government revealed only one book per subject will be approved for use.

Education CS Fred Matiang’i said some subjects have up to six textbooks from different authors and cited collusion between publishers, books sellers and heads of schools that leads to loss of public funds.

He said the Government would no longer entrust supply of books to “profiteers, dealers and marketers” keen to siphon public funds.

“If they say we are putting them out of business, then I have no problem putting thieves out of business,” said Dr Matiang’i.

There are about 12,000 booksellers across the country.

Kenya Booksellers Association (KBSA) chairman Josephine Omanwa said they would issue a statement after getting the official communication on the book distribution policy.

An audit released last year revealed the Government could be losing up to Sh13 billion annually to book fraud.

The report showed most schools flout procurement procedures when purchasing books and faulted Government’s failure to step up inspection of schools to save the money.

Ministry of Education staff, Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) and Kenya Publishers Association (KPA) compiled the report.

The report also cited failure by school heads to verify the quality of books delivered, which it says had given rise to powerful cartels.

The report said the total amount of money given to schools annually towards purchase of books is about Sh18.5 billion. It however noted the actual amount of money used on books is only Sh5 billion.

Each primary school pupil gets about Sh761 per year towards books under the free primary education policy.

Another 2.3 million secondary school students receive Sh4,792 each yearly towards books purchase, translating to Sh11 billion under the subsidised education programme.

“Given that public schools make purchases of only Sh5 billion, the Government must be losing billions annually,” reads the report.

And Wednesday, a seemingly enraged Matiang’i instructed KICD to revise contents of the Orange Book to streamline the number of books per subject.

“That way, it will be possible to distribute books to schools and account for them,” he said.

Orange Book is the official reference point of all books that KICD has approved for use in schools. All schools are advised to only buy books contained in the Orange Book.

Sensible people

“I have instructed KICD to re-look at the contents of this book and do what sensible people must do. Give me a course book for every subject,” said Matiang’i.

This means that each subject will only have one textbook and a number of supporting materials.

Mr Nicholas Maiyo, of the Kenya National Parents Association said the move would be a relief  to parents. “Today a parent buys up to four books by different authors on the same subject and it has been a burden to us,” he said.

KICD director Jwan Julius said revision of the book was long overdue.

“Ideally, books should be revised every five years when the curriculum is reviewed. During the 2002 curriculum review, the Orange book was not reviewed,” said Jwan.

This means the books in use have been on the shelves for the past 30 years, when the current curriculum was introduced. “We’ll fast-track the process as directed and re-look at the course books policy to have only one textbook per subject,” said Jwan.

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