Written By Michael Maunda on Thursday, October 30, 2014 | 3:44 AM

THE task force on secondary school fees has recommended free quality secondary education by next year.

Its report presented to President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday states free quality secondary education should lead to, “An automatic progression from primary to post-primary education in Kenya”.

The task force, chaired by Kilemi Mwiria, had the mandate of reviewing ways of making secondary education accessible to all school-age youth through establishing realistic unit costs.

The report recommends that government increases its capitation grant (uniform fee) per child to Sh23,975 per annum as opposed to the current Sh10,265 to cater for teaching and learning materials, related operational costs and lunch for students in public schools.

In the current financial year the government has already increased capitation to Sh12,870 from Sh10,265 for both day and boarding regular secondary schools.

This means households will pay annual fees of Sh11,105, Sh38,969 and Sh22,830 for the recommended three categories of day, boarding and special-needs secondary fees.

The high-flying 18 traditional national schools that had exorbitant school fees - Sh120,000 annually per student - loaded onto parents are now all under the boarding category.

While the Uhuru's administration has expressed its commitment to achieving free secondary education by 2017, “The task force is, however, of the considered view that free secondary could commence in 2015”.

Receiving the report, Uhuru said: “Every single child should be able to access basic education. The National Government will partner with other stakeholders in this. However, Members of Parliament and county governments should also be able to provide funds for physical infrastructure.”

He added that he fully supports the report, whose implementation depends on the involvement of all stakeholders.

“We can manage our education sector better and use the available resources well. I have been to some schools where you only find 20 students and yet there is another school a kilometre away,” said the President.

The task force's proposal of 2015 as the target year for implementing free secondary school education raises the question whether implementation starts in January next year or 2016, after the reading of the 2015/16 Budget.

According to the task force, free secondary education can be realised if more attention is given to quality teaching and learning.

With the uncontrolled mushrooming of secondary schools whose boards now employ 37 per cent of teachers nationally, the report suggests institutions with less than 180 students be scrapped besides developing a policy for establishing and staffing new schools, because they have caused the cost of education to go up.

Government needs to cast a wider net in partnerships with interested donors, county and sub-county governments to complement available state resources in education.

There should also be inter-ministerial collaboration on energy to reduce the cost of electricity, and with the National Treasury to waive taxes on goods and services meant for schools, including foodstuffs.

For the Ministry of Information Communication and Technology, there should be a partnership with schools for affordable Internet services as the Ministry of Agriculture supports school farms.

The report recommends that mobile airtime, fuel and bonds be taxed to fund secondary education.

“Government should explore the the possibility of exploiting unused ministry budgets, money saved by parastatals and government assets such as vehicles and buildings that lie unused,” the report recommends.

Unclaimed assets and Kenyan money frozen in overseas accounts and funds recovered from criminal activities will also be targeted.

There are 7,325 public secondary schools with an enrollment of 2,144,069 students. The government spends Sh44 billion annually on a total of 67,966 secondary school teachers.

Source: The star