Before scrapping CDF, consider its educational benefits again

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According to a 2014 study by Michael Ng’alu and Dr Emily Bommett titled “The Role of CDF in Provision of Secondary School Education”, CDF has given hope to the children of Kilome constituency. In the she semi-arid constituency, through CDF, poor but deserving secondary students have been able to receive bursaries, and infrastructure such as classrooms and laboratories built.

In Laikipia West District, CDF has had a positive effect in secondary education. In the 2007/8 financial year, for instance, the education sector received 6.6 million from CDF, with most of it going to employ non-teaching and teaching staff in highly understaffed secondary schools, as well as provide bursaries and buy tuition materials for students.

Researchers Ndiku Mulakhi and Lucy Muhavi in their 2013 report titled “Government Funding on Access to Secondary Education in Kenya” describe how CDF funds in education trickle down to the intended recipient. The fund was initially operated through the Ministry of Education (MoE) and operationalised through boards of governors at school level as the Secondary Education Bursary Fund (SEBF). SEBF was introduced during the 1993/94 financial year with an initial allocation of Sh25 million; by 2008, it was receiving Sh800 million.

However, today the CDF is operated at constituency level by the Constituency Bursary Fund Committee (CBFC). While the MOE sets the criteria requisite for applicants, it is the CBFC that awards the funds. The highest recipients are in national schools, followed by those in boarding and then day schools.

In 2008, the Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR), a not-for profit think-tank, found that 43 percent of the CDF applicants in secondary schools had benefitted from the fund.

Why the focus on secondary education?
Numerous studies have shown that this level of education has in the past recorded low enrolment rates, though this has been changing since 2009. According to the 2012 statistics from the Kenya National Bureau of Standards (KNBS), secondary school enrolment rate was 42.5 per cent in 2008, in 2011, it was 48.8 per cent. In a 2010 report by the Education ministry, despite reductions in secondary school fees, enrolment is still low.

According to Sessional Paper Number 1 of 2005, a major reason for these problems is poverty and poor school performance. Boys are more likely to enrol for secondary school than girls. A 2008 study by the MoE found that 33.7 pc of children are unlikely to attend secondary school because they cannot afford it. This implies that while demand for secondary education was high, only a fraction affords it.

To resolve this, the Kenyan government and World Bank started a cost-sharing policy in 1988, where they both pay the education of bright but needy students. Today, the secondary education sector in Kenya continues to receive financial donor attention from such development partners as USAID, International Monetary Fund and Department for International Development (DfID).

On its part, the Kenyan government introduced the Free Secondary Education policy to encourage more primary school children to enrol for a higher academic phase in 2008. Moreover, through the CDF Act of 2003, the education sector has received a much –needed boost.

The Act seeks to address poverty at the grassroots. 2.5 per cent of annual government revenue since 2003 is allocated to the CDF. According to the CDF website, 55 per cent of the funding goes to education. Perhaps this large allocation is in recognition of the universal benefits of education. An educated nation is able to develop in all its facets – economic, social, political and technological. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also recognise it as right for everyone; it is not a privilege.

While it is factual that the CDF is currently faced with mismanagement issues, its benefits more than out-shadow that. We need to seriously think about retaining the fund.

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