Millions of children will be targeted to improve their reading skills over the next five years under a new Obama administration literacy program in nearly 30,000 public and private primary schools.
But the schools are not in the U.S., they’re in the Republic of Kenya.
The tentatively titled Kenya Early Grade Reading Project, or KEGRP, seeks to implement national curriculum standards, deploy more than 1,000 trainers to assist tens of thousands teachers and improve the ratio of textbooks to students. The Obama administration didn’t reveal the cost of the program.
According to a draft Statement of Work that U.S. Trade & Aid Monitor located via routine database research, the U.S. Agency for International Development wants to ensure Kenyan children develop strong reading comprehension skills.
Accomplishing that task will be possible only when “access to quality materials matches the political and social will” to make it happen, the agency said in the document.
Kenya is one of the largest recipients of U.S. foreign aid, which peaked in fiscal 2009 at $830 million. The president’s fiscal 2014 request, however, dipped to $460 million.
The Obama administration nonetheless continues to view Kenya “as a strategic partner and anchor state in East Africa, and as critical to counterterrorism efforts in the region,” according to a Congressional Research Service report that the Federation of American Scientists made available earlier this year.
USAID’s Office of Education and Youth in Kenya acknowledged that it must proceed carefully when carrying out KEGRP, particularly in light of previous corruption scandals at the Kenyan Ministry of Education.
The U.S. in 2010 temporarily suspended education aid to Kenya when it was discovered that over $1 million in education aid had disappeared. Tens of millions in food aid separately was unaccounted for, leading the British government likewise to temporarily freeze assistance.
Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga suspended Education Minister Samuel Ongeri for three months over the allegations, while other ministers stepped down, the BBC reported at that time.
Kenya is East Africa’s most corrupt country, as ranked by the group Transparency International, the BBC noted in a related report.
USAID said in the draft SOW that “existing financial control issues remain unresolved.”
To safeguard against further siphoning of education funds, the agency will open the procurement to full and open competition. Once it selects a vendor, it will pay for the delivery of goods and services through what is known as a “cost-reimbursement/cost-plus-award-fee contract,” which sets limits on allowable contractor expenses while allowing for a profit.
Despite Kenya’s financial accountability challenges, the Obama administration intends to gradually transition KEGRP from a contractor-executed program to a government-to-government form of assistance. This will ensure “local ownership and sustainability” of the project.
USAID anticipates that within four years the government of Kenya “will have sufficient capacity in the areas of finance and procurement, human resources, and teaching and learning materials to mainstream and sustain” the endeavor.
Although gender parity – the number of boys versus girls enrolled in primary school – largely has been achieved across the country, the “gender gap” requires additional attention on Kenya’s coast and in its northeastern provinces, USAID said.
KEGRP will extend existing USAID/Kenya efforts “to improve the enrollment, retention, and performance of marginalized girls and boys” in these regions.
The Monitor previously reported Obama administration projects in Kenya have become so voluminous that USAID must hire more contractors to oversee endeavors other providers already carry out across the African nation.
Just last year, USAID, in its own words, admitted that the “overall USAID/Kenya program has increased rapidly and exponentially, outstripping workforce resources available to effectively perform assessments and rigorous analyses … track results … manage recordkeeping, and other project development and program office functions.”
According to a Statement of Work for the USAID/Kenya program-support initiative – which the Monitor located through routine database research – the agency acknowledged the level of U.S.-financed Kenyan operations has outpaced Washington’s ability to adequately manage it.
“All levels of personnel ceilings are constrained by a limited U.S. government footprint in Kenya,” the SOW said. “In order to address these constraints, certain project development and program office functions … have been identified for delivery through external contracting.
“This group of functions will be contracted as one support activity to reduce the burden on mission staff.”
A similar version of this article was first published May 12, 2013, via WND.com. Under agreement with WND, rights have reverted rights back to the author, Steve Peacock.