In 1993/4, the government established The School Secondary Education Bursary Fund-SSEBF to cushion households from impacts of poverty, unstable economy and the effects of HIV/AIDS by increasing access, retention and completion rates in secondary schools. The bursaries were administered by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology through secondary school heads and education officers.
From 2003, however, the government changed the system by establishing Constituency Bursary Committees to administer the Fund. The allocation to each constituency is based on the secondary school enrolment, constituency poverty index, overall national secondary school enrolment and the countrywide poverty situation. In 2004, national enrollment stood at 786,129 students, while the poverty index showed that 65 per cent (471,674 students) were poor and needed bursary support.
The fund targets children from poor households, children from arid and semi-arid areas, children affected by HIV/AIDS and orphans. Five per cent of the allocation is set aside for the girl child and other children under special or difficult circumstances (this may include children with disabilities or various medical conditions).
The objectives of the Bursary Fund are: To increase access to secondary schools education; Ensure students remain in secondary schools; Promote transition and completion; and reduce disparities and inequality in the provision of secondary school education.
The Constituency Bursary Committee:
In order for a constituency to qualify for an allocation of the bursary funds, it is mandatory that it forms a Constituency Bursary Committee which is comprised of: Area Education Officer (AEO) who is also secretary to the committee, Area Member of Parliament, KNUT representative, Three representatives of religious organizations, One chairperson of a board of governors, Two chairpersons of two Parent-Teachers Association (PTA) of two area secondary schools, One representative of the Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association, One representative from an education based NGO or CBO, The committee is free to co-opt two other members if necessary.
The chairperson and a treasurer are elected from among the members in elections presided over by the District Education Officer. The committee should have a minimum of 13 and a maximum of 15 members, a third of whom should be women.
Conditions and Disbursement
Each constituency is required to open a constituency bursary account and submit details of the account to the Ministry’s headquarters with copies to the District Education Board. The Ministry transfers the funds allocated to each constituency into the account paving way for the committee to meet and allocate bursaries to successful applicants. The money deposited must be used for bursary purposes only.
The money is sent to each constituency in two installments: A standard allocation of Kshs 1 million to the entire 210 constituencies. A second installment which varies from constituency to constituency depending on the Population size, district poverty index, student enrollment in secondary schools so as to ensure equitable distribution of resources.
Disbursements of all funds at the constituency level should be completed by the end of May. The returns for each tranche should be made within two months from the date of receiving the money at the constituency level.
Parents or students obtain bursary application forms from the division education offices in the areas where they are resident free of charge. No eligible person should be denied the forms.
Once filled, the forms are forward by the Area Education Officers to the constituency bursary committee which deliberates, scrutinizes and identifies those who qualify for assistance. The committee places students in different categories according to their levels of need.
In awarding bursaries, four conditions are considered:
• Family status: Ranked as totals orphan, partial orphan, single parent or needy parents
• Affirmative action or special circumstances: For example girl-child, boy-child, children from slums, marginalized communities, special needs or children with disabilities
• Discipline: Ranked as excellent, very good, good, fair or poor
• Academic performance: Ranked as excellent, very good, good, average or below average.
Marks are awarded in each of these categories and scores given out of a possible total of 100. The children with the highest scores are then awarded bursary. The list of beneficiaries and the minutes of the Constituency Bursary Committee signed by the chair, secretary and treasurer are forwarded to the District Education Officer who prepares payments and signs the cheques within one week. The cheques are sent to the AEOs office where the other two signatories sign the cheques before disbursement to respective schools.
It is the responsibility of the constituency committee to verify all cheques and ensure they dispatched. The names of the students awarded bursaries and the amounts given to each should be displayed on the notice boards of all schools and the AEOs, DEOs, and constituency offices.
Signatories and Accounting
There are three signatories to the constituency bursary fund: The District Education Officer, who is a mandatory signatory (the deputy can sign in their absence), and two other signatories proposed by the constituency bursary committee and approved by the Ministry. The bursary funds are closely monitored by the Ministry’s internal audit department, and failure by a constituency to account for their funds leads to withholding of the next allocation.