Teachers to invigilate KPSEA, KCSE for free as Treasury slashes Knec budget

Teachers will have a rude shock in their administration of exams this year following serious budget cuts by the national treasury that will affect key operations of the Kenya National Examination Council (Knec).

Each year Knec contracts teachers to work as centre managers, supervisors, invigilators and exam markers. Last year 243,434 teachers were contracted to manage the exams.

Knec does not pay for services offered by centre managers, supervisors and invigilators but pays them transport fare.

However in this years assessments and exams teachers could take themselves to exam centres as Knec budget to cater for them is withdrawn.

Education stakeholders have already thrown their voices at the issue after the treasury slashed to zero the amount allocated to Knec for invigilation and supervision of exams and assessments.

The experts fear the administration of the exams, which are just about three months away, could face serious challenges and cause anxiety to hundreds of thousands of candidates due to sit their tests in October and November

The National Treasury has issued guidelines that require Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), Judiciary, Parliament, Constitutional Commissions and Independent Offices to review estimates of revenue and expenditure for the Financial Year 2024/25.

In the circular dated July 5, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung’u highlighted at least 24 areas that will be affected by budget cuts, which include 100 per cent cut for examination and invigilation fees.

Prof Ndung’u said the Financial Year 2024/25 budget was to be funded through additional revenue measures amounting to Sh344.3 billion contained in the Finance Bill 2024, which President William Ruto rejected last month.

“This created a financing gap of a similar amount and implies that funding of expenditures to the tune of Sh344.3 billion is not tenable. In line with Article 223 of the Constitution and Section 44 of the PFMA, Cap 412A, the financing gap will necessitate revision of the budget estimates for the FY 2024/25. The changes will be regularised in the context of the FY 2024/25 Supplementary Estimates No. 1,” read the circular.

Knec had been allocated Sh5 billion as exam waiver fee in the rejected Finance Bill. 

The latest cuts have come as a shocker to a majority of  education stakeholders, who say this will complicate the exam process further, given that the Knec has been operating on huge budget deficits despite presenting their programme of activities to the National Assembly every year.

Expectations were that the council would start receiving funds at the beginning of this month.

The experts said they were disappointed over the budget cut as it has come at a time when the council should be fully facilitated to ensure it not only delivers this year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary  Education (KCSE) exam, Kenya Primary School  Education Assessment (KPSEA) and other assessments smoothly, but also have enough funds for thousands of invigilators required.

One of the experts, who sought anonymity for fear of reprisals, said public documents show that Knec has been receiving a flat rate of Sh5 billion for exams every financial year, yet the number of candidates has been on a steady rise and so are other critical features and processes required to ensure the sanctity of the exams.

“From what I have gathered over the years, government reforms on exams have been very expensive. Questions have been raised on why the government did not consider using the same principle it uses in the  education sector, known as per capita funding, but does not apply the same for exam funding,” said the expert.

According to per capita funding used in areas like disbursement of funds and distribution of textbooks, the government considers enrollment number in a learning institution but does do that on exam funds.

This means the government does not count the number of students in a school expected to sit their exams and, since 2017, just one year after the government took over paying these fees, Knec has been operating on a deficit.

According to audited accounts by the Auditor General, Knec had a deficit of Sh3.8 billion, and thus experienced challenges running its operations.

The government has been paying examination fees for all candidates enrolled in public and private schools since 2016, a move which was geared towards ensuring that no learner fails to sit national examinations.

At the start of this year’s KCSE registration exercise, for instance, Knec said the government would pay exam fees for all students except for those candidates with a re-sit, non-Kenyans and private candidates who were registering in sub county private examination centres.

Examination fees for regular and private candidates in seven subjects is Sh5,000, Sh5,400 for eight subjects and Sh5,800 for nine and Sh1,800 for KPSEA.

For those repeating the exam, the fee ranges from Sh3,100 for one subject and Sh6,300 for nine subjects while the KCSE qualifying test registration fee is Sh3,000 per candidate.

“Yesterday, I saw a circular on budget cuts on exam and invigilation fees and wondered why the government is trying to create a crisis and cause anxiety in the country because all along, we have known that it fully caters for this and Knec is expected to deliver without fail,” said another  education expert.

The expert, who also sought anonymity, argued the government should have issued such communication at the start of the year.

And speaking separately, Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) Deputy Secretary General Hesbon Otieno raised concerns over the cuts saying they will have a drastic effect for a majority of parents and learners and could even see some learners miss out on sitting the national exams.

“If there is a 100 per cent cut on exams, it means that the burden of exams has been reverted back to parents. This action will be drastic as most parents and so many candidates might miss sitting the national exams,” Otieno said.

In the circular, the Treasury CS said the government will control expenditures by initiating austerity measures on the provisions for the operations and maintenance.

He said these proposals will be undertaken in all MDAs, including Semi-autonomous government agencies.

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