In the run-up to the August 8, 2017 General Election, Jubilee's promise to roll out free secondary school education in January 2018 was sweet music to the ears of Kenyans who were weighed down by financial burdens their shallow pockets could barely support.
Taking the heavy burden of school fees away from parents would have enabled them attend to other pressing needs, but it now seems like their expectations are being dashed. The celebration of free secondary education may have been premature for, judging by the complaints so far registered by parents taking their children to join form one, little has changed.
Either the Government is not being sincere about the disbursement of capitation money to individual schools, or head teachers in most schools across the country are sabotaging Government efforts towards making free secondary school education a reality. The importance of education in society, and in realising our economic goals, cannot be gainsaid; all the more reason why any impediment that threatens the success of the programme must be tackled with haste.
Even as acting Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i assured Kenyans the Sh22,244 per student in public day secondary schools had been remitted in line with the Government pledge, some parents taking their children to day public secondary schools have claimed they are being charged school fees, besides other monetary demands.
Apparently, in some schools, the cost of school uniform alone either equals, or surpasses, what is being charged for tuition. Clearly, this does not make sense. In direct contravention of an earlier Government directive, some schools are demanding that parents purchase school uniform from specific suppliers at a cost that is more than double the going price at retail outlets. This type of exploitation needs to be contained.
In primary schools where schooling is also supposed to be free, new parents must satisfy the precondition of taking a desk to the school. Some schools still demand activity and development funds, yet the Government had put a moratorium on them. If truly education is free as prophesied, hurdles should not be placed in the way of parents by schools. The minister in charge of education needs to force compliance with regulations designed to protect both the parent and student, if only to raise literacy levels in the country.