Education has taken centre stage in the campaigns ahead of next month’s elections.
All the political parties have prioritised free primary and secondary education.
They have also pledged to transform education to produce graduates who can compete effectively at the regional and international levels.
Free education, right from primary to secondary school, is an appealing proposition. It is desirable.
Cost is one of the most critical factors that determine access, transition and completion rates.
High learning cost is the leading cause of school dropouts and low transition across various levels.
In a country where the majority of households live below the poverty level, nothing charms more than a promise to offer free education.
It is against this backdrop that the Narc administration that came to power in 2002 introduced free primary education in 2003.
Subsequently, the coalition government that came into force in 2008 introduced subsidised secondary education in 2009.
In the current campaigns, Jubilee and Nasa, the leading political groups, have pledged to abolish levies in secondary education and make it truly free.
But all these sound hollow. And this is why. All public primary and secondary schools have not received capitation for second term that is ending next week.
Secondary schools alone are owed about Sh5 billion.
In the circumstance, schools have been running on credit and are now faced with huge debts they are unable to pay.
Matters have been complicated because of fee limits, which are in themselves unrealistic.
Moreover, schools are prohibited from sending away students for non-payment of fees.
Put simply, schools are facing a financial crisis and require urgent intervention.
Given past experience, free schooling is untenable.
Financial allocations are never sufficient and worse, even what is voted is never disbursed in full.
Thus, schools are perennially walking from one financial crisis to another.
At this point in time, the Executive is immersed in elections unaware of what is happening in schools.
We ask the government to disburse funds urgently to schools before their operations grind to a halt.