Schools are staring at a financial crisis when they reopen next week if the government does not release funds by Friday.
Operations in secondary schools are likely to grind to a halt, with head teachers yesterday raising the alarm that they will be running virtually on empty.
The teachers told the Nation that their institutions have no cash since the funds released for free-day secondary for the first term did not include capitation for the Form Ones who reported in August.
"Schools had to use the funds meant for the other students to run schools," said Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (Kessha) Chairman Kahi Indimuli.
The government releases capitation funds for the free primary and free secondary education in the ratio of 50:30:20, with first term getting the bulk of the disbursements.
Last term, the 2021 first term, the government released Sh17.47 billion to primary and secondary schools.
Of the amount, Sh2.62 billion was meant for learners in primary schools while Sh14.85 billion was to support secondary school students.
In the looming crisis, boarding schools are likely to be worst hit as they require cash to pay suppliers, board teachers and settle utility bills, including electricity and water.
Some schools have incurred huge debts because a majority of students have not also cleared their fees for 2020 second and third terms, and this year's first term, which began in July and ended in September.
Mr Indimuli, who is also the Principal Machakos Boys High School, said despite head teachers' reminders to parents to clear fee balances, majority have not paid citing the hard economic times caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
A principal who runs a boarding secondary in Makueni County said before reopening next week, schools will be required to buy food for students, fuel and pay non-teaching staff among other expenses.
"Since we don't have the money, I have to make arrangements to get items on credit which the school will pay once we get the capitation funds. The non-teaching staff will have to wait until students pay fees," she told the Nation.
Another school head in a day school in Samburu County said his nightmare is the large number of Form Ones.
"Sub-county schools receive most of the Form One students and our infrastructure is inadequate to accommodate them all and therefore we need increased funds," said the principal.
Heads of special-needs schools also said their pupils and students require special care which will require schools to have funds.
To ensure schools run smoothly, Mr Indimuli said, the government should change the current plan and release funds before reopening of schools.
"The culture of reopening schools and having to wait for funds to be released always puts school heads in a very difficult situation," he said Mr Indimuli.
Other principals who spoke to the Nation confirmed the acute financial situation in schools and revealed that they had already contacted suppliers to provide basic requirements on credit.
Mr Indimuli asked parents whose children have fee arrears to pay up when schools reopen on Monday.
Contacted, Basic Education Principal Secretary Julius Jwan asked school heads to remain calm, saying second term capitation funds will be in school accounts by the end of next week.
"The Treasury has promised to release the funds to schools by the end of next week, the capitation funds will include funds for the Form Ones, which were not released last term," he said.
Dr Jwan explained that when the funds for first term were released, the Form Ones had not reported and their data had not been captured in the National Education Management System (Nemis).
The PS further directed school heads not to send home students with fee arrears when they report to school next week.
Instead, he said teachers should enter into arrangements with such parents to clear their balances in installments.
"We are having a short term and therefore we do not want to hear of principals sending students home for fees," he said.