Pay to play? The Debate Over Taxing Extracurricular Activities in Kenya

By Amy Ochiel

In response to Kenya’s economic challenges, the Government has initiated a series of tax measures to rejuvenate the nation’s financial health and drive economic growth. One such proposal, drawing intense scrutiny, is imposing taxes on extracurricular activities within schools. While the objective is to address disparities in access to these activities, the potential impact on holistic learner development has sparked heated debates. In the context of CBC, where emphasis is on practical learning, the classification of extra-curricular activities as mere luxuries threatens to undermine the broader educational goals. It is envisaged that rather than burden an already highly taxed parent, many middle and lower-income schools, will do away with the extra activities.

The Shifting Landscape of Education

The CBC prioritizes practical skills over theoretical knowledge, and what was once considered “extra-curricula” is now integral to developing well-rounded individuals. Extra-curricular activities serve as platforms for learners to apply and enhance their skills in real-world settings.

Whether in music, sports, or technology, extra-curricular engagement fosters leadership, communication skills, teamwork, and the acquisition of soft skills. Notably, sports such as swimming, targeted for taxation, have produced national heroes such as Jason Dunford, who brought pride to the Country through gold medals in international competitions and became a symbol of national pride, exemplifying how these activities foster leadership, communication skills, and teamwork, contributing to the holistic development of young minds.

Undermining the Competency-Based Curriculum

The proposed tax directly challenges the essence of CBC by discouraging active learner participation in extracurricular activities. These activities, deemed essential for holistic development, play a crucial role in realizing the intended outcomes of the curriculum. Taxing them may inadvertently hinder learners from fully embracing the practical learning approach advocated by CBC. Extra-curricular activities extend beyond the boundaries of education, significantly contributing to Kenya’s creative and sports economies, increasingly acknowledged as potential drivers of the Country’s GDP. Taxing these activities risks stifling their growth and impeding economic potential. Instead of creating barriers, the Government should consider fostering an environment that encourages learners to actively participate in extracurricular pursuits actively, thereby nurturing talent and economic growth. Studies have found that learners who are engaged in extracurricular activities demonstrate higher levels of motivation and academic achievement.

A Call for Reconsideration

Anecdotal evidence supports a positive correlation between extracurricular involvement and improved interpersonal skills, creativity, and critical thinking. Given the potential setbacks to holistic child development and economic growth, it is imperative for the Government to reconsider the proposal to tax extra-curricular activities. Active participation in these activities enriches the lives of learners and expands their career options. This, in turn, contributes to the growth of various sectors and increases revenue generation through a broader tax base. While taxing extracurricular activities may offer a short-term fiscal solution, its long-term implications on education, inequality, and involvement in extracurricular pursuits will pose long-term damage.

Amy Ochiel is an Amnesty International Kenya Human Rights Education and Activism officer. She is a Human Rights Lawyer, Public Policy, Gender Equality and Social Inclusion specialist. Expert in Movement building and Youth Engagement. Views expressed in this article are her own personal views. Email: [email protected]