Kibaki’s Free Primary Education: How Funds Were Looted Part 2

“Provision of free primary education for all our children will be immediate goal”; pledged Kibaki during his 2002 inaugural speech.

Overcrowded classrooms, lack of books and shortage of teachers as funds were systematically looted through the Ministry of Education

Providing free primary education (FPE) in public schools was one of President Kibaki’s key election pledges in 2002. Kenya first attempted to implement FPE when the late President Kenyatta announced in December 1973, that basic education would be free of charge. The implementation processes began in 1974, but failed since there was no financial commitment from the government. Kenya almost achieved universal primary education (UPE) during the decade of the 1980s, with enrollment rates reaching 94 per cent. In the 1990s, basic education went through many reforms, but given the unfavorable political climate under then-President Moi, its standards fell, especially due to cutbacks in donor-funding.

By offering free primary education, Kibaki’s government is on the right track to achieving universal primary education (UPE), which is number two on the list of eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to be met by 2015. The introduction of FPE gave poor Kenyan parents a lot of hope for their children’s success, since these parents do not have any wealth to bequeath them. Paying school fees had always meant selling their meager possessions; marrying off their daughters to get bride price to pay for their other children’s schooling; doing petty trade or manual work; and pleading with teachers to let their children remain in school. Many children in Kenya had been known to drop out of school, only to return later when there was enough money. These children also engaged in child labor to help their siblings and families.

For instance, girls in Kenya suffer more from the high cost of education and whenever there is economic pressure, almost 50 per cent of families withdraw them from school. (Daily Nation January 16, 2003). However, investing in high quality education for girls is known to increase their chances of attaining quality life while educated girls also benefit the wider society in general (The State of the World’s Children, 2002). The introduction of FPE in January 2003 was therefore a great relief to Kenyan families.

According to UNICEF (cited by Fleshman in: ‘Giant step for Kenya’s Schools’, 2005), Kenya’s total enrollment in primary school was 7.4 million in 2004, compared to under six million pupils in 2000. There are currently 8.8 million school children in the FPE program. However, the FPE political promise did not include increasing the number of teachers required to meet the huge population of school children. Therefore, Kenya lacks around 70,000 teachers to meet the recommended teacher-pupil ratio per classroom. Somerset (2007) has assessed Kenya’s enrollment trends over four decades and stresses that a lot should have been learnt from the 1974 primary school fees waiver that was a fiasco. (Universalizing primary education in Kenya: the elusive goal).

When the government of Kenya introduced cost-sharing in Kenya in the 1980s, its duty was to recruit and pay teachers’ salaries. Meanwhile, parents bore the cost of erecting buildings, buying books and school equipment. This never worked well because in more than 30 districts, parents were unable to provide money for new buildings and other required facilities. Massive dropouts were recorded, and out of around one million pupils enrolled in class one in 1993, only around 400,000 reached class eight. Of the one million who entered class one in 1998, about 426,000 could reach class eight. Costs had therefore kept almost 3 million children out of school. (Daily Nation January 19, 2003).

According to the World Summit for Children Goals report (2000), by the end of the 1990s, Kenya had not managed to achieve universal access to basic education. This meant at least 80 per cent of primary school age children needed to attain primary education in order to bridge literacy disparities between boys and girls. The report noted that pre-school development activities, which included appropriate low-cost family and community based interventions, had also not been achieved.

Funding free primary education
Since the launch of FPE in 2003, the Kenyan government has increased its educational funding to 17.4 per cent of the national budget, although donor funding is still key in supporting it. In order to engage all stakeholders in the education sector, the government and development partners established the Kenya Education Sector Support Program (KESSP), to harmonize procedures and approaches in funding FPE. KESSP was launched in July 2005 by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) as a strategic plan for 2005-2010.

The implementation of KESSP resonates with the overall goals of Education for All (EFA) and Kenya’s commitment to attaining the MDGs. Joy Karamesi of Urban Slums Basic Education Campaign (USBEC) Kenya, reported on May 11, 2010 that: “The UK, World Bank, Canada and UNICEF have been providing ‘pooled’ funding directly through the government to the Kenya Education Sector Support Programme (KESSP). The UK pledged $88.8 million (KShs. 6.75 billion) over a five-year period (starting in 2005) and the US $7 million (KShs. 532 million). UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) announced support of £55 million (KShs. 7 billion) over five years (2005 – 2010) to KESSP. An additional grant of Kshs. 582 million was agreed in 2009 to specifically target improving water/sanitation facilities for the poorest schools. Between 2005 and 2008, Kenya received $21 million (KShs. 1.6 billion) in Fast Track Initiative (FTI) Catalytic Fund Grants, a World Bank basket fund. The World Food Programme ($13.9 million) and OPEC ($9.9 million) too have contributed to making the programme a success.” (

Mega-corruption in FPE
Despite the allocation of taxpayers’ money and donor funding, Kenya’s culture of corruption has already interfered with the implementation of FPE. On December 18, 2009 David Aduda published an article in the Nation newspaper named: ‘Exposed: how officials looted schools’ millions’. He revealed that a confidential report by the Ministry of Finance titled: ‘In-depth Risk Based Fiduciary Review, Kenya Education Sector Support Project’, indicated that KSh178 million from donors and the Kenyan taxpayer allocated in FPE had been squandered by senior Education ministry officials and school teachers. However, there were fears that more billions of shillings had been lost. Public money was used in fake training workshops, hiring of training halls, laptops and other accessories, and trainers’ fees. Dubious dealings were listed on forged receipts and handed to accounting officers at the Ministry of Education showing: “inflated payments of goods and services, double allocation and disbursement of funds to some schools and implementation of new programs like school nutrition and mobile schools in the arid and semi-arid lands.”

Aduda revealed further that the Treasury report indicated how money was wired to schools’ accounts against set procedures to deliberately let some well-placed big shots “skim off State largesse”. For instance, excess money would be sent to certain schools then shortly, they would be instructed by the Education ministry’s headquarters to “remit the excess sums to private bank accounts, minus a small cut for the headteacher.”

Another example revealed how the Education ministry paid KSh4.2 million to hire laptops, LCDs and public address systems for “workshops” in seven provinces to train headteachers and their deputies on managing instructional materials. All the seven coordinators from the seven regions were allocated KSh600,000 each to hire laptops and LCDs.

Aduda itemized the bloated expenses as such: KSh721,000 – “At one dubious training session this amount was allegedly spent on mineral water in one week for 61 participants. At KSh50, that could purchase 14,520 bottles of water.”

KSh1.5 million – “Amount set aside for computers missing at Nairobi school. Audit revealed that this and other amounts set aside for books and computers were missing”.

“An officer who had been given a GK vehicle to travel to Mombasa from Nairobi also claimed money for a return air ticket.”

KSh24,000 – “Money that was claimed for refueling a college bus, yet the training was residential and nobody used the bus.”

On February 2, 2010 Samuel Siringi wrote in the Daily Nation newspaper that the cost of textbooks stolen in the first six years of FPE was KSh1.7 billion; 5.2 million textbooks were stolen in the first six years; 58 million textbooks were bought in the past six years; and 36 million textbooks were then in use in schools. Textbook losses were attributed to wear and tear (63 per cent); theft (25 per cent); vandalism (seven per cent); and natural disasters (five per cent). To be continued tomorrow in Part 3.

Jared Odero


Hard lessons: Learning the hard way


  • This year Uhuru diverted money meant to pay teachers to the military. The high level of theft in the Kenyan government is shocking. With 70,000 teachers lacking in the FPE program how did Kibaki expect quality? The video shows teachers who are untrained and basically out of the official teaching system, i.e. not recognized by the employer – Teachers Service Commission. If land cannot be bought in the slums by individuals to build schools, why can’t Kibaki issue orders for this to be done by government?These children will end up in poverty and add up to the millions of unemplyed youths since Kibaki had not planned ahead.

    Taxpayers money is now being used to pay the Ocampo Six whenever they go to ICC, yet children cannot be provided learning tools.Kibaki has destroyed Kenya!

  • The last of Kibaki’s achievements was to bring down the country by questionably “winning” the last elections.

    He wants to impose Uhuru as next president but he will not say it openly, though all his deeds are in favor of a fellow tribesman.

    Just like Kenyatta and Moi, Kibaki institutionalized rampant corruption in his regime. He has absolutely done nothing tangible against any rogue
    ministers. Whistle blowers still die under the guns of men looking like government officials. The country human sector is still run by NGO. He is always in a it-was-not-me and I-don’t-know stance. All large developments are financed by the West or China at great future financial liability. Kibaki has never been under the questions of an international press conference. The list is so long that writings on a toilet roll would not be enough.

    Kibaki will finally evacuate the presidential office leaving all the impotent, vicious, leeches, kleptomaniacs, cronies, girlfriends and sons and daughters of cronies in the background.

    Kibaki’s official wife left some memorable, laughable and undignified moments. Kibaki will go leaving a big ugly stain behind.

  • Who is Mwai Kibaki?

    Emilio Stanley Mwai Kibaki was a staunch Catholic and brilliant economist who attracted the attention of the young Kanu party because of his educational background at a time when it was very rare for an African to have a high school education let alone be a university lecturer. This prompted Tom Mboya to drive from Nairobi all the way to Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda in an air cooled VW beetle to persuade Kibaki that his country needed him more than Makerere University did. Mboya is said to have come back with Kibaki in the VW. Always the reluctant politician and determined to retain his dignity and stick to his principals, Kibaki became a very different person when he entered State House and became president of Kenya. Kenyans got a glimpse of his other side when the post election crisis of December 2007 and January 2008 unfolded. A friend of mine was so shocked that he just kept on muttering under his breath… This is not Kibaki, this is not Kibaki, over and over again.

    It is instructive that on taking over the presidency, the very first thing Kibaki did was to declare free primary school education to all even when the government did not know how it was all going to be financed. It was not like Kibaki a world renowned economist to make such a reckless move.

    Kibaki never had the chance to cut his teeth properly as a bare knuckled politician. This glaring weakness was to show itself many years later when he climbed to the very top of Kenyan politics and became president. It is true to say that of all the three Kenyan presidents, Kibaki was the least qualified as a politician to hold the office.

    In many ways this explains the way he has always ended up in the kind of troubles that a more savvy politician would easily have avoided. It also explains why Kibaki has always been the reluctant politician terrified of mudding himself in the normal political mud wrestling that goes with the trade. In fact many times he has gone to great lengths to avoid the “politics”. Odd for a man who has been a politician for so long.

    Fascinatingly this characteristic served him very well in two important stepping stones to the presidency.

    The first was as Daniel arap Moi’s vice president (1978 to 1988). It is important to note that Moi had greatly preferred Jeremiah Nyagah and was determined to appoint him as his Vice president on taking over power in August 1978 from Jomo Kenyatta. But Charles Njonjo, then the AG and whom we have seen held Moi’s hand through his first uneasy steps as president, advised him to appoint Kibaki instead. And Njonjo knew the right arguments to use to convince Moi. He knew that Moi was terrified of the Kikuyu as a political threat and Njonjo told him, Kibaki would be the perfect “window dressing” for Kikuyus to feel that nothing had changed much for them even after the death of Jomo.

    Kibaki settled into the Vice presidency and literally “disappeared.” Which meant that there was absolutely no possibility of him ever overshadowing Moi? In those early years Kibaki concentrated on his Finance docket and visitors to Kenya would have found it hard to guess that he was actually also the Vice president.

    The second time his hatred for bare-knuckle politics helped him out was as leader of the official opposition in 1998. Kibaki became leader of the opposition by virtue of his DP (Democratic Party of Kenya) political party being the opposition party with most seats in parliament. Most DP legislators hailed from the Kikuyu tribe who are usually loud and controversial in their politics by nature. Kibaki’s quite, sober character that avoided petty politics at all costs gave the party a much better image than it deserved and raised Kibaki’s profile immensely as a voice of reason in the usually radical opposition. This served him considerably well and later helped Kenyans across the political divide quickly warm to him as the opposition candidate in 2002.

    This was in itself amazing because before Kibaki took the helm the country had been served by only two presidents and one of them had been Kikuyu. And therefore it stood to reason that the third president should NOT be a Kikuyu. More blunt Kenyans would have told you that they had already had their turn to eat. This is one of the reasons why Moi was so sure of himself in selecting Uhuru Kenyatta as the Kanu candidate because he was certain that the opposition candidate would not be a Kikuyu and he would therefore have a huge advantage and an easy win in fronting Uhuru for the presidency. No serious presidential candidate in Kenya can ever afford to ignore the sheer numbers of the Kikuyu community.

    But in retrospect Kenyans now know that they elected a man that they hardly knew to be their third president. And yet many mistakenly felt that they knew him well enough because he had been in politics for so long. Nobody wanted to remember that he was the longest serving non-politician in Kenyan politics and that the country would pay a very high price mainly because of this fact.

  • Only in Kibaki’s Kenya can you get cheated out of your money during the Christmas season. The government will not help you. Impunity and corruption reign in Kenya.

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