Nairobi, Kenya — The Kenya Publishers Association (KPA) has joined in protests against delayed disbursement of free education funds, saying they are owed Sh8 billion for books supplied to schools.
The association's chairman Lawrence Njagi said they will join teachers in their strike should the government not release Sh11.3 billion for the free primary and secondary education programme by the end of this week.
"Should they not be released by Thursday this week and should the teachers deem it necessary to go on strike, as Kenyan publishers, we will be downing our tools and joining them in the streets because this is impunity that cannot be allowed to go on," he asserted.
"The money that is owed out there is about Sh8 billion and this is by no means a small amount of money since from this amount, almost 80 percent is publishers' money," he said.
He further urged Members of Parliament to take up the matter urgently and put pressure on the Treasury to release the funds.
"Is it that education is not important? Or are our priorities upside down? At what time did the government find education not fit to be a crucial part of their funding?" he asked.
The government has continued to struggle to fund FPE and free day secondary education programmes started in 2003 and 2008 respectively.
According to the Education Ministry, only Sh801 million has been released to primary schools, with a balance of Sh1.8 billion yet to be disbursed.
For the current financial year 2011/12, primary schools have received Sh6.8 billion while day secondary schools have received Sh8.8 billion. Sh9.5 billion is yet to be released to the secondary schools.
Njagi further called for the removal of a clause in the new Value Added Tax (VAT) Bill that proposes to impose a 16 percent tariff on school text books.
He stated that exclusion of the tax would protect both parents and schools from the adverse effects of high costs.
"Sixteen percent VAT on books results to about 80 percent finally to the end user. This is a consumer tax that is paid by the user. What we are likely to see is a sliding of reading culture where people only do so to pass examinations," he explained.
The VAT Bill 2012 is aimed at overhauling the value-added tax regime in the country to make it simpler and to net government millions more in taxes lost through numerous exemptions and zero-rated duties that have been put in place over the years.
Goods that were expected to be affected by the proposed law include school textbooks and mobile phones.