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How Covid-19 has disrupted supply chain in schools

Uhuru Gardens Primary School

Uhuru Gardens Primary School Standard 8 pupils try out their new desks on October 29, 2020. PHOTO | KANYIRI WAHITO | NMG

Summary

  • With the presidential directive to open schools for all learners in January, and with no plans insight for the expansion of learning facilities such as classrooms, laboratories, dormitories and latrines, the education sector would be an epicentre for the spread of the virus.

Apart from the obstinate problem of teachers’ strikes, Covid-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption in the education sector ever witnessed in history, with nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries and all continents affected by this scourge.

According to the World Health Organisation, Covid-19 is a world public health crisis that has caused severe human suffering and loss of lives and livelihoods. OECD’s latest Economic Outlook, predicts a brutal recession with global economic activity expected to fall by six per cent in the financial year 2020/21.

In March, the government closed all public and private learning institutions as a measure to help curb the spread of the virus further into the general population.

With the presidential directive to open schools for all learners in January, and with no plans insight for the expansion of learning facilities such as classrooms, laboratories, dormitories and latrines, the education sector would be an epicentre for the spread of the virus. The exponential rise in the number of teachers and students infected by the virus is alarming as hospitals bed space continue to diminish by the day.

Although studies suggest that children aged under 10 are less susceptible and less infectious than older ones, they could be super-spreaders of the virus. An outbreak in school could be devastating, especially with the ill-equipped teaching and non-teaching staff who are most likely susceptible.

Kenya has attained substantial improvements in the education sector, thanks to numerous strikes by the teachers. However, the government needs to revisit the capitation grant system to ensure that it reaches schools within the stipulated time. The Procurement Act requires procuring entities to procure only if there is the availability of funds.

Poor disbursement of capitation makes compliance with this Act almost impossible. Delays in disbursement coupled with unresponsive fees payment strain school budgets, forcing headteachers to incur huge debts from suppliers to keep the institutions running.

Since the closure of schools in March, the administrations are unable to pay suppliers.

Banks are shying off from granting loans to school suppliers due to their unreliability in repayment and possible default. This could derail deliveries of supplies to schools and deny them the benefits of economies of scale.

Before the pandemic, the schools were already in a deplorable state with very huge populations witnessed due to the 100 per cent transition campaigns. With the congestions in schools, keeping social distance might pose a great challenge come January, if not immediately addressed. Political machinations and favouritism mar the Education ministry infrastructure grants to schools.

There are uncoordinated relief criteria used in the release of the grants to deserving schools.

According to UNESCO, countries around the world are taking broad public health and social measures, to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

However, it notes that government funding on education often fluctuates in response to external shocks, as governments reprioritise investments.

The slowdown of economic growth associated with the spread of the virus may affect the availability of public funding for education.