The government has paid out Sh 900 million to thousands of Jua kali artisans across the county contracted to fabricate 250,000 school desks even as the Ministry of Education confirmed that 70 percent of desks have already been delivered to schools.
Education Cabinet Secretary Prof. George Magoha said that by early February, the ministry was projecting most counties will have had all their desks delivered.
The CS was speaking at Mwakingali Primary School in Voi on Thursday during a tour to assess the learning conditions at the institutions.
The CS noted that the desk program had rolled out smoothly in many counties with only a few challenges being reported in some arid counties. He added that such bottlenecks were being addressed to ensure all schools got their desks to facilitate proper learning.
“The government has paid close to Sh 900 million directly to the artisans whose work has been certified and desks delivered,” he said. Another tranche of Sh 50 million was paid to artisans on Wednesday for completed desks.
The CS was accompanied by senior education officials including Coast Deputy Regional Director of Education Eddie Bwana Arita, County Director of Education Mr. Samson Wanjohi, Mwatate Deputy County Commissioner Damaris Kimondo and top security officials in the county.
The school-desk program was a component under the education sector in the 8-point agenda introduced by the government to boost the sector as part of Covid-19 economic support.
The Government allocated Sh 6.5 billion to be used in hiring 10,000 teachers, contracting 1,000 interns to support digital learning programs and fabricating 250,000 desks and lockers for primary and secondary schools.
Contracts for fabricating the desks would go to local artisans to inject capital in the local economy and stimulate flow of money.
Magoha said that out of the total, Sh 1.9 billion was set aside for the school-desk program. The government had opted to directly pay the artisans for work completed to eliminate bureaucracy associated with government payment approval procedures and also to avoid theft of public funds.
“No money for the children has been lost. The process is subjected to strict verification and payment is done from headquarters after the work has been deemed satisfactory,” he said.
Magoha however noted that many desks have been returned to artisans for failing to meet the required standards.
“We must have value for money. With 70 per cent of the desks delivered, we are hopeful that the total consignment will have been received in the next two weeks,” he said.
On Covid-19, the CS said that the health measures put in place by schools have proven to be effective. Since the schools opened on January 4th, Magoha said the ministry had received less than twenty cases of Covid-19 school-related infections out of a total population of over 16 million learners who are back in school.
He noted that learners were wearing masks and hand-washed regularly. He however, admitted that the guideline on social distancing was a challenge especially in schools with large populations. He termed the absence of infections in schools as a God’s gift.
“This is the third week and we have had very few incidents. God is great because if we had to go by what people were saying, we would have closed the schools by now,” he said.
He also said that the Ministry had established masks’ banks to facilitate the distribution of seven million masks to schools across the country. The banks are located in regional headquarters including Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, Eldoret and Kisumu. Plans are plans to establish masks banks in counties.
Magoha further disclosed that the government had allocated Sh 470 million for distribution of sanitary towels to 1.7 million school girls. Already, the sanitary pads have been dispatched to sub-counties where distribution is underway for learners. He also revealed the ministry had started a school-feeding program for public schools in slum areas where learners will get fortified porridge flour.
“They will receive fortified porridge which is a part of enhancing nutrition in schools,” he said.
By Wagema Mwangi