Parents raise concerns over suspended students' health cover

Parents have raised concerns over the cloud of uncertainty that continues facing more than 3.4 million learners in public secondary schools.

National Parents Association chairman Silas Obuhatsa said for the last six months, students' have been at risk following an abrupt termination of the Sh4.5 billion EduAfya insurance scheme.

Obuhatsa said for the last four years, all students in public secondary schools benefited from government-paid medical cover.

“Millions of our children’s lives are at the mercy of school heads and parents. The government decided to run down the insurance cover without even thinking of the dangers they are exposing our children to,” Obuhatsa said.

He now wants the government to move with speed in finding an alternative for learner’s health cover.

“The idea of having a collective pool was very noble and should not be forgotten. It becomes a challenge for schools with high populations in case of an outbreak. Currently parents are really suffering,” Obuhatsa said.

Since 2019 to 2023 the scheme has operated, the government spent Sh9.5 billion on the scheme.

The last report on the medical scheme indicated that 606,893 students sought medical attention in 2019 out of 2.7 million learners covered.

According to the Ministry of Education's guidelines for implementing free day secondary education, the medical and property insurance vote head previously covered emergency injuries, accidents, last respect, emergency drugs, first aid kits, and medical cover for students.

However, in December last year, the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) cut its four -year contract with the Ministry of Education as a result of the Universal Health Insurance Act 2023, which took effect last year.

The decision leaves parents and educators concerned about the potential impact on students' well-being.

Agnes Ndunge, a parent at Mbooni Girls School said parents now need to make their own medical and insurance arrangements to ensure their children are attended to when they fall sick.

“Schools no longer have a vote head for paying nurses, medicine and first aid kits. We have to call in parents when the students fall sick,” she said.

She added that schools no longer have funds for paying nurses, medicine, and first aid kits, necessitating parents' involvement when students fall sick.

“The EduAfya programme was a relief to us parents, but the government’s decision to end it without an alternative is like leaving us in a deep sea to cross on our own,” said Ndunge.

Another parent, Mary Muthoni, said the financial burden, noting that day school fees were fully covered, while boarding schools charged between Sh40,000 and Sh53,000.

Muthoni fears that schools will soon increase fees to cover medical bills, questioning how they will manage the extra costs.

“The parents were only required to buy school uniforms for their children, meet lunch costs and boarding-related levies. How will schools contain extra cost without raising fees to accommodate the cost,” said Muthoni.

The Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) Chairman, William Kuria, criticized the decision to scrap the programme, urging the government to ensure its continuity.

“The EduAfya programme should not be discarded just like that. We need to look at it and ensure that the benefits that were realized with NHIF are not lost,” said Kuria.

Kuria pointed at the risks to students and the challenges faced by school heads when students fall ill, especially those with chronic diseases needing medical cover.

“School heads have a big challenge when students fall six. We have some with chronic diseases that need a medical cover. Managing certain illnesses for example payment of school nurses, taking children to hospital was an extra cost is a toll order to most parents,” Kuria stated.

Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakumicha stated that the scheme will be transferred to the Primary Healthcare Fund, covering learners alongside their families.

“In the new arrangement, we are going to widen the scope where all students will be covered under their households. It does not make sense to cover a student and not the rest of their household,” she said.

The government allocated Sh1,999 per child annually for medical and insurance under the Free Day Secondary Education program.