Order on fees timely but ensure schools comply

Parents pay school fees at Equity Bank Kakamega branch as their children's wait when schools resumed for second term on October 12, 2021.[Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Parents can now heave a sigh of relief after the Education ministry allayed fears that learners with fee balances would be sent home as schools reopen for second term countrywide.

Fully aware that Covid-19 and the new school calendar have financially jolted households, the ministry wants school managers to negotiate with parents and guardians on how they would pay fees.  

On top of this, principals are to account for extra money that parents may have paid in the first term, and possibly roll over the remainder amounts to the new term to avert spending hitches.   

Admittedly, the sector — just like with other aspects of managing a return to post-pandemic normalcy — faces teething challenges whose straightforward solutions may be hard to come by at this moment.

The latest order on schools fees has, for instance, divided stakeholders. The Kenya Secondary School Heads Association welcomed the directive, but warned that schools need money to run. The National Parents Association waded into the issue, saying parents will pay up but must push back on illegal levies.

While we laud Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha and his team’s effort to ease the fee pressure on parents, we challenge them to ensure adherence. It is one thing to issue orders from Jogoo House and another to ensure they are enforceable and not out of sync with reality.

There are teachers who will flatly ignore the order and send learners home. Still, there are those who will insist on charging unapproved levies. On the flipside, there are parents who will cling onto the ministry order so at to avoid paying up for costs they individually signed up for at the PTA level. We urge the ministry to deploy inspectors in all the 47 counties to ensure total conformity.

For the record, we believe it is important to take care of the interest of parents and learners. But this should not be done in a manner that could put school managers in an awkward situation at this delicate period of the coronavirus pandemic. This is why the State needs to consult widely, going forward.

The ministry anticipates that the old school calendar would be restored by 2023. Learners have a few more years to contend with shorter holidays and tedious terms. Parents, on the other hand, will put up with raising fees without the luxury of ample time. 

The government has released Sh17.8 billion to cater for second term fees for continuing students and also settle pending bills for Form Ones. Out of this money, Sh15.8 billion will cater for free day secondary school while Sh2.2 billion will go towards free primary education. This is the time to seek creative ways to raise the much-needed funds for schools.

To function optimally and be Covid-19 compliant, learning institutions need money. Some may want to rebuild, redesign and expand their infrastructure. Many schools are in a sorry state, with inadequate desks and toilets, teacher shortages, and lack of sanitisers and running water. Ultimately, more sacrifices have to be made. 

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