Students: Where’s the medical cover Jubilee promised us?
Over 2.6 million students in secondary schools left for the week-long mid-term break on Saturday without the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) medical cover promised by the government in December last year.
A majority of secondary school heads interviewed revealed that they still had to attend to sick students at the institution’s dispensaries or nearby public hospitals.
In extreme cases, the school administration is forced to contact the sick student’s parents to handle their cases.
The Nation established that some secondary schools, out of desperation, had entered into agreements with insurance companies to offer medical cover for their students.
In December last year, President Kenyatta directed the Health and Education ministries to enrol three million secondary school students for the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) medical cover.
The plan was expected to kick off in January when schools opened for the first term.
BIG FOUR AGENDA
“As part of the President’s Big Four growth agenda, President Kenyatta directed Matiang’i (then Education Cabinet Secretary) to work with the Ministry of Health to enrol all three million secondary school students into the NHIF programme,” read a statement released by the Presidential Strategic Communications Unit on December 20.
It was not immediately clear how the NHIF will be funded should the children be enrolled as it currently runs on two funding models where those in the formal sector contribute Sh1,700 through compulsory membership while those in the informal sector and retirees pay Sh500 in an open and voluntary plan.
As currently constituted, principal members of the fund can only be above 18 years. For one to be eligible for membership, they must have a national identity card.
Education PS Bellio Kipsang on Wednesday told National Assembly’s Education Committee that the plan to roll out the cover for all students was on course.
“We are still engaging all stakeholders and soon we will roll out the programme,” said Dr Kipsang while presenting his budget proposal to the committee.
NHIF CEO Geoffrey Mwangi also told the Nation that the plan remains on course.
“There is some work going on in the background between us and the ministry which will be completed by Tuesday when we will be able to give you comprehensive details. It will be followed by a launch where we will show the progress,” said Mr Mwangi.
Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) chairman Kahi Indimuli told the Nation that the government had provided principals with a draft document showing regulations guiding how students would be enrolled into the medical scheme.
The association, Mr Indimuli said, made proposals to the ministry and was waiting for its response on the matter.
In their proposal, the principals pushed for a special cover customised for students only to be introduced and funded by the State instead of the NHIF.
“Some of the students are covered through their parents who are members and principal contributors to NHIF. Registering the same students under NHIF will be a duplication,” said Mr Indimuli.
“The special cover should be made purely for students regardless of whether their parents are members of NHIF or not,” added Mr Indimuli, who is also the Principal of Machakos Boys.
According to the school fees guidelines, the government provides Sh1,999 for medical and insurance.
Most of the principals interviewed said they knew nothing about the proposed medical cover for students by the health insurer.
“We don’t know whether the cards will come or not; as a school we take care of the students when they fall ill by paying for the bills,” said Mrs Mary Akunja, Principal Bunyore Girls’ Secondary School.
Mr Daniel Mwaturo, the Principal of Kisumu Day Secondary School, said: “I don’t even know who to contact. The story was told in the media and it died.”
He said the school has employed a qualified nurse who attends to students suffering from common illnesses and, in case they are overwhelmed, the parents are called.
In the South Rift, various school principals were yet to receive communication on the ambitious programme.
Nakuru Boys’ High School Principal Mike Yator said the institution was relying on its dispensary to treat students who fall sick.
Mr Simon Korir, the Principal of Amalo Secondary School in Kuresoi South, said school heads were waiting for the directive from the Ministry of Education on the way forward.
Students of Nakuru Girls’ High School, Kambala Secondary School in Molo, Koige in Mau Summit and Elburgon Secondary are also yet to be enrolled in the programme.
Mr Peter Ndung’u, the Principal of Elburgon Secondary School, said heads were waiting for direction.
Mr Ndung’u said the fact that some parents lack NHIF registration numbers that should be attached to the students’ form is likely to pose a challenge to the programme.
Chavakali Boys’ High School Principal John Kiura said the government was yet to issue guidelines on how students should be enrolled.
At Igunga Girls, the 565 students have been enlisted with Cooperative Insurance Company medical scheme at a cost of Sh169,500 annually.
Principal Rachel Anyama said: “The money paid to the insurance company is taken from boarding fees.”
Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) Kisumu Branch Executive Secretary Zablon Awange wondered how the policy will be implemented.
“The NHIF policy, though good on paper, had challenges from the beginning since it is a duplication of roles. The parents are already contributors, why rope in students again? The fund, in itself, is still characterised by inefficiencies,” said Mr Awange.