Nairobi — The number of parents and guardians heading to bookshops remained visibly low countrywide as schools re-opened on Tuesday.
Booksellers who spoke to Capital FM News said the number of buyers had significantly dropped compared to previous years amid confusion on what books to buy--in what they attributed to the confusion of the new syllabus to be rolled out for nursery to class 3.
Others said most parents could have assumed that the government will provide textbooks for all students and pupils in schools after Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi announced that Form One students will be given text books on arrival in school.
"We were not given any details as to what books are going to be in the market and we did not have ample time to clear off stock which we had that may not be needed at the moment. Some of us have ended up with dead stock," a trader at a Nairobi bookshop said.
The situation was the same in Nakuru, Mombasa, Nyeri, Kisii and other towns.
"The government should clarify to parents, because may be they think their children will get all text books in school," an attendant at a bookshop in Kisii town told our Correspondent.
The pledge by the government to provide six textbooks for each student joining Form One appeared to have played a role in this year's subdued quest for books with parents adopting a wait and see attitude.
The policy announced by Matiangi in December will see students receive Mathematics, English, Kiswahili, Chemistry, Biology, and Physics textbooks before the end of the week.
The move followed a discovery of massive leakage of taxpayers monies in what had grown over the years into a bookselling cartel siphoning funds allocated to schools through exaggerated book prices.
According to Matiangi, schools were buying textbooks at an average cost of Sh 790 per book despite the same books being sold to schools in Rwanda at a ridiculously low cost.
Under the centralized system of procurement, the education ministry will be buying textbooks at an average cost of Sh 194.
"The government will take over procurement of books for public schools. We cannot be losing billions of shillings to corruption networks," a visibly annoyed Matiangi proclaimed in December.
It is estimated that Sh 7.5 billion will be spent to acquire the textbooks which shall bear the court of arms to prevent rogue school managers from selling them.
Although the ministry is yet to publish official figures, the new arrangement will save the taxpayer over Sh 10 billion with the school-based procurement of books said to have cost the government in excess of Sh 20 billion.
Among publishers who will supply the six textbooks in the current school calendar are Kenya Literature Bureau, Moran Publishers, East African Educational Publishers, Oxford University Press, and Longhorn Publishers.
Over 900,000 students are expected to join Form One in what is expected to mark a 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary schools.
The government has even gone further to roll out an ambitious programme geared towards expanding the admission capacity of national schools with the creation of day streams in about a dozen national schools.