Primary teachers have blocked an attempt to include government propaganda in textbooks supplied to schools under a pound;7.7 million Dutch-funded project.
The Royal Netherlands mission in Nairobi threatened to withdraw funds if schools were not allowed to choose the books. Teachers demanded to be supplied with core curriculum textbooks in sciences, mathematics, English and Kiswahili.
Kees Rade, head of development co-operation in the Dutch embassy in Nairobi, said the project was meant to help 1,000 primary schools in 15 arid districts where few children enrol and even fewer stay the course. Literacy levels too are in decline.
In these areas pupils often learn in decrepit buildings or under trees and may be forced to share one text-book.
John Katumanga, chairman of Kenya's teachers' union, said:"For the ministry of education to sanction political propaganda literature to be supplied to schools instead of textbooks is to participate in marginalisation of nomadic communities."
Teachers were being asked to accept president Daniel arap Moi's ghost-written Kenya African Nationalism: Nyayo Philosophy and Principles and its Swahili translation and Our President, his party's manifesto.
Angry teachers from Laikipia district accused Moi and his government of trying to turn tuition into a crude propaganda campaign.
Ministry of education sources said the contentious books were not on the original list compiled by curriculum experts. But the office of education permanent secretary Wilfred Kimalat issued a second list to suppliers with instructions to ignore the first list.
Dutch embassy officials are now asking education officials how political propaganda literature came to be included on the list of recommended textbooks. According to Kees Rade, books worth pound;1.27m were supposed to have been supplied to schools in January this year. But these were delayed until recently when the propaganda started to be delivered.
However, threatened with suspension of the second phase of the book project, the ministry of education has now climbed down and allowed teachers to select books of their choice from the original list of recommended textbooks to primary schools.