Fees and Covid-19 spread top list of parents’ concerns as new year starts

Parents buy books for their children's at Vaghela Bookshop in Kakamega on May 8, 2021. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

The government has lifted the veil on the true burden parents will have this week, when all 15 million children are expected to report to schools for first term.

All learners, from Pre-primary to Form Four, are expected to report to schools starting today, when a new term that will last 10 weeks starts under the revised calendar.

Grade Four pupils transitioning to Grade Five, and Standard Eight leavers joining Form One, and who have been home for an entire school term, will now join the rest of the learners.

And as Covid-19 infections are expected to peak this month, only 85,000 teachers have been fully vaccinated.

A Ministry of Health Status report indicates that these are only 25 per cent of the targeted 330,671 teachers. Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha has recently painted the bleak future of the schools reopening, saying: “We are going into another journey that is unknown. If we have faith as a nation and as a people, we have nothing to worry about. God will be in control of the process.”

He said this as he commissioned 9,000 beneficiaries of the Elimu Scholarship Programme (ESP) at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) in Nairobi.

Meanwhile, primary and secondary school heads have said preparation for reopening requires money to make schools ready for learners.

By end of last week, the government was yet to send money to schools to begin the new academic year.

Only Sh6.6 billion, which was capitation due for third term in the last academic year, had been sent to schools.

Ministry of Education insiders said the money will help teachers to prepare to receive learners.

But school heads said the disbursement would be used to pay debts, as the money released late last week was meant to cover last term.

Prof Magoha said a deliberate decision was made to reduce fees payable this academic year after it emerged that the reorganised calendar would be nine weeks shorter. “All national schools will pay fees less Sh8,500 as other categories of schools pay Sh5,500 less,” said Magoha.

Basic Education PS Jwan Julius, however, said the ministry already made a Sh20.5 billion requisition for primary and secondary schools.

Of this, Sh14.5 billion will cater for secondary schools. This will, however, not cater for First Formers, as their budget will be factored once they report to school. The remaining Sh6 billion will be sent to primary schools.

Parents have also expressed concerns over possible coronavirus infections among learners as they move to the institutions. “We request the government to put adequate measures to ensure Covid-19 protocols are adhered to for the sake of the children,” said Nicholas Maiyo, the National Parents’ Association chair.

Meanwhile, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) has said the ongoing recruitment will be fast-tracked and successful candidates deployed to schools immediately.

“The 8,914  teachers being recruited are to start work immediately. And after that, we shall hire another 6,000 additional interns to address the shortage,” said Dr Nancy Macharia, the TSC Chief Executive.

Macharia added that transfers of teachers have been limited to ensure stability in schools.

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