Why Do We Still Have Needy Students in 2020?

Even as the100% transition policy to secondary school by the government takes effect, the month of January 2020 was awash with appeals from needy students on social media asking for help with school fees for joining secondary school. Where are the government bursaries meant to cater for such students?

‘Free’ Education

The 2019/20 Ministry of Education budget stands at Sh468.66 billion. The current capitation on free primary and secondary education annually is Sh1,420 and Sh22,244 per student respectively. It releases 50 per cent of the capitation to schools in the first term, 30 per cent in the second term and 20 per cent in the third term.

How much is the parent expected to pay annually?

Category A refers to national and extra-county schools in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nyeri, Thika and Eldoret.

Category B refers to boarding and extra-county schools in other areas.

With the current capitation on free education, parents still have to pay Sh.53,554 for category A schools, Sh.40,535 for category B schools and Sh.12,790 for special needs education. Day schools remain free since the government caters for everything.

However, these figures do not include extra costs that are specific to schools. For example and uniforms, shopping needed by boarders all of which the parents pay. This is where bursaries come in handy especially for needy students.


The National Government- Constituencies Development Fund (NG-CDF), formerly known as the Constituencies Development Fund is under the Ministry of Devolution and Planning. It was established through the CDF Act of 2003 during the Kibaki presidency. Its main aim was to support constituency-level grass root development projects. This includes bursaries.

The CDF Act of 2013 was declared unconstitutional by the High Court as it violated division of power and functions between the national and county governments. Replacing it was the NG-CDF Act of 2015 that came into effect on February 19, 2016, which states that an amount of not less than 2.5% of all the national government’s share of revenue be directed to the NG-CDF as divided by the annual Division of Revenue Act enacted by Article 218 of the Constitution.

The Treasury allocated Sh39.8 billion under the NG-CDF in the 2019/20 financial year. This means each of the 290 constituencies get a figure of Sh137.4 million to finance development projects.

The Sh137 million comprises about Sh130 million as equitable share to each constituency while the balance is reserved for emergencies in line with Section 8 of the NG-CDF Act and is to be shared equally.

So how much of this goes to bursaries?

According to the amended NG-CDF Act of 2015, ‘funding of social security programs, education bursary schemes and mock examinations and continuous assessment tests, shall not be allocated more than 35% of the total funds allocated for the constituency in any financial year.

This means that on average, each constituency should allocate Sh48.1 million to such development projects this fiscal year. It is however not clear how much of this is allocated for bursaries per constituency since information on the same is scanty and the reports available not conclusive enough. This makes it difficult to determine whether this fund significantly reduces the number of needy cases and whether it goes to the students who really deserve it.

Case Study

In a tweet dated 23rd January 2020, Governor Lee Kinyanjui of Nakuru County took to Twitter with this post.

That means that the Sh84.4 million catering for 20,344 needy students would mean each got approximately Sh4000. This would still leave students with fee balances and hence not a reasonable amount.


Even though there are other sponsorship programs such as Equity Wings to Fly and those offered by other banks, the new Elimu Scholarship Program, other organizations and even individuals who offer full scholarships to needy students, it is clear that there are still many who are left out. We can also conclude that as of now, government bursaries alone are still not enough to cater for all needy cases.

We would like to hear from you on your experience with government bursaries. How effective is it in your county or constituency? Does it go to the students who really deserve it?


Data analysis and breakdown by Purity Mukami

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