The coronavirus pandemic has imperiled the education sector in an astounding way. At the outset, it has completely disrupted academic programmes, causing what is being referred to as the "lost" school year. The psychological and social impacts will take long to resolve.
It also inflicted financial shocks on learning institutions. Their closure in mid March cut off all income as they depend on fees from students for operational and capital expenditure .
When they closed, schools and colleges had only collected fees for that term. Specifically, and for schools, planning and heavy spending takes place in first term.
All cash receipts go into procuring learning resources for the year. But they have not received any funding from any source since despite having costs to cater for. Private schools, for instance, are in dire straits and many are shutting down as they cannot service overheads like electricity, water and salaries. Servicing loans taken out for capital development is a veritable challenge.
Public schools have two sources of income: Fees from students and capitation from the government.
None of these incomes have been forthcoming and, just like private schools, they have recurrent expenditure irrespective of whether or not learners are in session. Public schools employ large numbers of teachers and support staff.
The government stopped mass recruitment of teachers years ago, so most schools have been compelled to hire their own. In fact, 37 per cent of public school teachers are employed by boards of management.
Last week, Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha said the government will release cash to the schools in the next two weeks to help them pay the BoM staff. This is welcome.
We ask for better planning and timely disbursement of funds required by the institutions until they reopen in January.