As schools open, spare parents pain of sending learners home over fees

Austin Omiah, a counsellor takes Eric Ogolla through an orientation process during form one admission at Kisumu Day High School in Kisumu City. [Michael Mute, Standard]

Some time back, school was a pleasant experience for both parents and students. Many looked forward to the opening day. Not anymore.

Education was regarded as a chance to help better someone’s life, the choice-giver, door-opener to great opportunities. But today it’s an experience many prefer avoiding.

This week, many students will be back in schools after a break of slightly more than a week. If parents were honest, many would confess they are no longer looking to schools reopening, because with it comes the reality of a paying school fees and buying school items amid a depressed economy.

With the condensed academic calendar, parents have to pay fees for four terms instead of three. This means paying fees every two months in dire times.

With the given high cost of living many parents are groaning under a heavy burden as they confront the cost of school items and education needs. Some have been forced to cut spending on other basic needs in order meet the requirements in some institutions.

While we applaud the Government’s move to provide free text books in public schools, it is but a drop in the ocean. Many parents are still confronted with materials like dictionaries and other set books. Some parents are also required to buy more than two pairs of uniforms and revision books while have others have to find ways of taking care of other levies like remedial classes, teacher motivation programmes and infrastructure among others.

Principals, especially of boarding schools, are threatening to increase fees given the rise in cost of basic foodstuff. They want the Government to review the capitation from the current Sh22,244 to Sh30,000 for each student arguing that the fees paid by parents are not enough to keep learners in school.

Stake holders in the sector like the Kenya Secondary Schools Head Association agree with the principals after the Government reduced the school fees for national schools to help cushion parents from the pangs of Covid-19 pandemic.

If the principals make good their threat, the performance of many students is likely to be affected. Given the harsh economic times, many learners will be out of class and be pushed to do menial jobs to help their parents raise money.

Yet according to the Government, learners staying at home is not an option.

Faced with this harsh realities, we urge the Government to allocate more money to help cover the needs of schools and spare the parents the burden of increased fees. The Government should expand bursaries to give relief to struggling parents and they should be strictly to deserving learners. Administrators too should treat cases of fees with understanding as they too are parents in other schools.