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Stealing from children: $46m of education aid goes missing in Kenya

July 26, 2012
tags:#Africa, #Afrika, #AID, #corruption, #development, #education, #feminism, #Kenia, #Kenya
by:Jack Bicker
Children and young people in Kenya continue to suffer, as tens of millions of dollars go missing from the country’s education budget.

The education of children in the developing world is not only a matter of future employment and economic success; for these children, education is integral to both health and survival. Schools often provide children with the kind of safe environment in which they have access to clean water and nutritional supplementation. Additionally, schools are sites where vital vaccinations are often administered, and where children receive guidance on how to protect themselves against abuse, exploitation, and illnesses such as malaria and HIV.

Education in Kenya is also a feminist issue. According to UNICEF, “educating a girl will dramatically reduce the likelihood that her child will die before age five”, and gives women a greater chance of participating in social, economic and political decision making in contexts where this has traditionally not been the case.

It is for this reason that one of the United Nations’ eight Millennium Development Goals has the aim of achieving “universal primary education” by 2015, and governments around the world have contributed millions of US dollars in aid to support these targets. However, the story for education in Kenya is a sad one. According to some reports, some $46 million has disappeared from the Kenyan education budget, more specifically from funds designated to Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki’s universal primary education initiative.

Corruption is a major problem in Kenya. Research by Transparency International suggests that when accessing public services, 37% of Kenyans expect or are asked for a bribe. It is against this backdrop that the Kenyan education minister Sam Ongeri was accused last year of - at the very least - overseeing a department in which nothing has been done to find or punish those who have stolen the money. The UK government - who initially pledged some $77m USD to fund education projects focused on girls, and children in both the hard-to-reach slums and arid lands - has responded by halting the latest installment of $20m USD, expressing its intention to “make limited use of Government systems to distribute aid”, and to focus instead on private and charity run projects.

One example of such a charity is provided by US based organization, The Nobelity Project, and its Kenya Schools Fund initiative which works “to build classrooms, libraries, computer labs and water systems at schools across rural Kenya”. Whereas the charity Concern Worldwide has expressed anxiety over funding streams that bypass and therefore undermine the authority and development of state institutions, it is clear that organisations such as the Nobelity Project achieve much by partnering with local communities to provide bespoke projects that have impacted upon the lives of over 5000 children and young people.

The $46m USD stolen from the Kenyan UPE budget was a large enough sum to have funded the necessary school places for those four million Kenyan children who yet still have no access to any education whatsoever. For now, at least, and in the absence of secure anti-corruption government processes, charitable organisations working directly on the ground provide an opportunity for ordinary Kenyans to have a direct influence in the development of their communities, and the collective future of their children.

The Nobelity Project:

Concern Worldwide:

Save the Children:

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Jack Bicker lives in Berlin, is a graduate of the University of Oxford, and currently a philosophy research student at the Institute of Education - University of London. His interests include politics, social justice, development and education, and the impact that globalisation has on all of these. 

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jack bicker
Jack Bicker