Form One students will report to school beginning today, August 2, 2021, amid bursary woes across the country, challenges that might see bright but needy learners miss a chance at an education.
Parents continue to hope to secure assistance for their children from the various bursary and scholarship schemes run by MPs and county governments.
The national government also awarded full scholarships to 9,000 learners through the Elimu Scholarship scheme.
However, there have been discontent and concerns that many deserving cases were unfairly left out of the schemes, forcing learners to repeat Standard 8, go to day schools they were not admitted to or drop out of school altogether.
The most affected are learners selected to join county, extra-county and national schools. These are boarding schools and boarding fees are not covered by the free day secondary education programme.
The government pays Sh22,244 per learner in all secondary schools. For the 2021 school year, learners in national schools will pay Sh45,000 while those in extra-county schools not in Category A and all other boarding schools will pay Sh35,000.
On top of the fees, parents have to foot bills for other requirements, including uniform, bedding and other personal effects.
Mr Johanna Olando, a shoe shiner in Migori town had high hopes of his son, Douglas, benefiting from the 2021 governor's scholarship scheme after he was selected to join St Joseph's Kitale Boys High School.
He had been shortlisted for the scholarship scheme but to the family's surprise, his name did not feature in the final list of the beneficiaries.
"It seems my chance had been given to someone else since no one was giving me a proper reason for removing my son's name from the final list," he said.
In Kisumu, Ms Elizabeth Adhiambo, a resident of Koru in Muhoroni Sub-County, told the Nation that her son, now in Form Two, has continually been denied bursary despite being a partial orphan.
"When my son sat his Kenya Certificate of Primary School Education (KCPE) exam, he scored 369 marks and was admitted to Kericho High School where the MP promised to settle his fees," she recalled.
The student, she said, was allocated Sh20,000 in January 2020 during his admission and that was the last time they received any bursary support.
"He is often sent home and every time we visit the sub-county for CDF bursary, the officers only give him a letter pledging to pay the school fees but have not paid to date," said Mrs Adhiambo.
In Nyamira County, Borabu and Kitutu Masaba constituencies do not consider students in secondary schools but only fund those in colleges and universities.
And in Homa Bay, Governor Cyprian Awiti accused some county officials of colluding with school principals to deprive needy children funds.
While such schemes are expected to help needy students meet their educational needs, the Nation established that some rogue officials grant huge bursaries to children of their relatives, senior politicians and government officials.
Mr Awiti said the funds that were being stolen were being diverted to personal use, and after investigations, action was taken.
"My administration will not allow county officials to divert funds to personal use. We took action against those implicated and that should serve as an example to the rest that no government funds should be mismanaged," Mr Awiti warned.
Julius Omuga, the Homa Bay County Education Network coordinator, accused MPs from the region of failing to coordinate fair allocation of bursaries to needy students.
Mr Omuga claimed that learners with disabilities in special schools had been side-lined and did not benefit from bursaries while the officials were silent on the matter.
Competition for education support has also become very stiff, with many parents banking on bursaries due to economic ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Sunday, at the Kabati administration office in Naivasha Sub-county, more than 2,000 parents jostled as they sought to be given the bursary application forms.
A member of the scrutiny team, Mr Moses Karanja, disclosed that only 300 learners would benefit from the NG-CDF scheme.
"The number of the applicants has tripled and we have limited funds to disburse. A deserving number will be locked out," said Mr Karanja.
He said the high number was a result of job losses occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic with a number of parents being affected.
"Some of the parents were in the queue as early as 4am and might miss out," said Lake View Senior Assistant Chief Philip Ariri.
In Seme Sub-County, the NG-CDF fund accounts manager Kipng'etich Lang'at said 6,500 students will be awarded bursaries from the constituency kitty.
"Out of the 6,500, only 16 will be awarded full scholarships while 32 will be awarded partial scholarships," said Mr Lang'at.
Likely to stay at home
Naivasha MP Jayne Kihara said education in the country is in a "mess", with high school learners and college students likely to stay at home.
"We have close to 6,000 students in dire need of cash but only a half the number will be lucky to get funded," said the legislator.
She faulted the government policy of 100 per cent transition policy, saying it does not consider putting in place the right infrastructure and personnel.
Reporting by Ian Byron, Angeline Ochieng, George Odiwuor, Benson Ayienda and Macharia Mwangi