Baringo ghost schools saga is a matter of national shame

Charles Okoth

Erect a signpost somewhere in the bushes, in the hill country of Baringo. Let it don a fancy name, and High School after the self-same fancy name. Full with address and phone numbers. Don’t even bother to hide the signpost behind some form of intervening foliage; to probably confuse some curious Smart Alec come lately.

Fill requisite forms, and have them signed and rubberstamped by some voracious accomplice somewhere in the portals of Jogoo House B; and presto! A school. Fully registered; issued with a certificate of registration, and receiving full state capitation, much thanks to the d-efficiency of the occupants of Jogoo House B.

And if you think this is a laughing matter, you could be literate but daft. You never know. What you should be thinking of is getting hold of those who deign to be custodians of executive power in the (MoE), and swinging them all over by their what-are-they-called-again. I am talking here of people who should be hanging their heads in shame; marvelling at the magnitude of inefficiency ascribable to them.

Capitation

I am talking of people who should be ashamed even to go home to their families and watch TV with them, as news of this scandal is aired ‘live live’. People whose children, in their innocence, can look sideways at their sires, residents of Jogoo House (will someone change this name? It all the time makes me feel that that place is a hen house) and ask what they do where they say they go to work.

Look here: capitation is only given to registered schools, following a register maintained at Jogoo House B; the MoE headquarters. And for a school to be registered, a thorough assay is undertaken. This is in accordance with the Education Act. To give a layman a glimpse of it, one (the applicant) must ensure the requisite infrastructure is in place.

This includes buildings, playing fields, and sanitation facilities appropriate for the expected learners (even unto number of learners per urinal stall), security arrangements, and a host of other requirements. The buildings must be certified as standard. Public works department does this, and fills forms. Stamped and signed.

When the applicant is sure that all these are in place, he requests for inspection from the MoE. This is done by the quality assurance officers at sub-county and county levels.  May one mention here that that inspection is supposed to be thorough. Yes; supposed. As to whether it will live up to that appellation is neither here nor there. Suffice be it to say that these ‘thorough’ people file an elaborate report; the aim of which is to either recommend registration of the school, or suggest changes or improvements, among others.

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After the MoE inspection, one needs another clearance: Ministry of Health. These have to inspect and determine whether the school, as is where is, can pose a health hazard for the learners and other personnel who will operate there, like teachers. Again, forms are filled and attached.

After all this, the completed forms are forwarded to the said Jogoo House B. There is a whole department responsible for this. Highly paid chiefs, seniors, senior deputies, deputies, assistants, and assorted underlings. Red tape galore; rubber stamps galore. Official seals galore. Red carpets galore. Sedative. Go there and see!

May one point out here that these people, from the minister down to the underlings mentioned, are our hirelings: yours and mine; the tax payers. We pay them salaries, and, in some cases, vulgar allowances. We pay them so well! We, the Kenyan public, take care of our employees well; most of them. That is why we have a right to demand that they execute their mandate with due thoroughness.

Let me look at the idea of the Roll mentioned above; the one against which capitation money is paid.

Monthly returns

When schools are registered, a roll is maintained. As I have stated above, there are officers in charge just for maintaining this roll. Field officers are constantly updating Jogoo House about the statistics on the ground.

Each school hands in its details: number of classes, number of learners in each stream, even names of teachers, their grades (job groups) and their qualifications. This is referred to as Monthly Returns. TSC also has this detail. They know every school, the head teachers, and other teachers.

And one can tell me that a scandal of this magnitude can be enacted right under the noses of these people without their knowledge? Not even a whiff? Really? Aaaaahh? Wacha bwana.

It is a fact that there has to be a conspiracy here somewhere. Schools existing as signposts only? And capitation being given to these for years on end without anybody at Jogoo House knowing? And nobody can follow it up and know which officer signed the inspection reports, and who stamped them and forwarded them? Who filed them? Who checked them out, and sanctioned payment of capitation money?

WHO?

These questions beg for answers. This country is not short of cash. It is short of honest, patriotic pubic officers. As it is normally said, poverty is not pecuniary; it is a state of the mind. If we think in such a way as to abet such criminal activities, we will be poor indeed. Our poverty as a nation is that of scarcity of the right, honest personnel.

We want to see deliberate efforts made to rid us of civil pests which cling onto our public coffers like blue ticks. We want to see heads rolling. We want to see something done differently; not like the case where some group of inquiry is made with the express brief of letting some politically correct thief off the hook.

That’s the only way we can satiate our patriotic spirit, and assuage our national anger. Otherwise, we will be swinging about in a cesspool of corruption. Set up a commission of inquiry on this issue, Mr President; and put me on it.

By Charles Okoth

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Education News - Newspaper Vol 281