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FPE now an avenue for corruption as parents continue to pay fees

BILLOW KERROW
By | July 23rd 2011

By Kepher Otieno

Schools in Nyanza have imposed extra fees as inflation rises. Consequently, parents want the Government to cushion them against these levies at a time they are also battling high cost of living.

The Standard On Saturday established that several schools, especially those within Kisumu Municipality, are charging parents heavily for tuition.

The teachers claim some parents had allowed remedial lessons to be paid despite the State ban on extra coaching classes.

This follows good results posted by schools in Kisumu that saw a big percentage of pupils who sat for KCPE last year join national schools.

But findings revealed that some levies were unofficial, while District Education Boards following pleas by the school administrations sanctioned others.

With the cost of living is rising, some parents argue that the decisions consented by some of their colleagues was not unilateral and so tuition fees must be reviewed.

Further investigations established that some schools charged as high as Sh15, 000 for admission of new pupils defeating the purpose of free education.

After the admission fee is paid, parents have to part with about Sh450 to Sh500 per month disguised as tuition fee. But the charges vary from school, according to a survey carried out within Kisumu Municipality public institutions.

Damning revelation

For instance, early childhood education (ECD) costs were exorbitant and not negotiable. The schools charged from Sh8,000 on admission, and subsequently Sh4,500 per term.

Parents who spoke to us said they had no alternative. Teachers argued that this was happening because ECD programmes were not catered for when the State introduced free primary education programmes (FPE).

Even though, FPE has scored a number of successes by ensuring increased access to schools, The Standard On Saturday learnt that most parents were yet to feel its impact.

This is because of the extra costs they are still forced to meet to keep their children in school.

The parents’ woes can be traced to increased enrolment standing at over 8.2 million children nationwide, greatly outweighing number of teachers.

A closer examination of the concrete experiences within the Kisumu municipality reveals that FPE has fallen far short of its stated goals.

Parents continue to complain that they still have to pay despite Government’s provision to meet fees requirements. Some parents have gone further to claim that when they pay fees, no official school receipts are issued, an indication that money is being collected illegally. Given their economic hardships, parents agonise the fate of their children if they are sent home due to failure to pay. This is why even when they know that some of the levies are unofficial they still end up paying to keep their children in school.

Kenya National Parents Association (Knap) Nyanza branch Chairman, Jackson Ogweno, claimed that this had resulted in high drop out of pupils in some schools.

A recent rapid survey carried out by Community Initiative Action Group - Kenya (CIAG – K) and Elimu Yetu Coalition exposed the levies rot.

The report shows the need to address negative impacts of FPE if it is to ensure its smooth implementation and ultimate success.

According to CIAG-K director Chris Owalla, focus group discussions were also held with over 1,000 parents. The studies resonated with findings carried out by The Standard.

For instance, in Central Primary School, all new pupils were to be admitted upon paying Sh300 to cater for interview and test papers. In addition, all pupils were required to pay Sh200 per year as parents’ obligation to teachers’ welfare.

In class One, they were required to part with Sh100 for tuition per term, while the pupils bought their own books, which are supposed to be provided by Government.

Valid receipts

Similarly, at Highway Primary School, all new pupils are admitted after paying admission fee of Sh2,000 beside Sh 200 for interview. Then pupils were also charged Sh150 for tuition per term and Sh25 for examinations, with accrued levies totaling to about Sh680.

For Class Six and Eight they charge Sh50 for internal exams and Sh100 for and external exams and all pupils are charged Sh20 for sports in a term basis.

In Union Primary School, all new pupils were to be admitted upon paying Sh1500 for tuition and other services. Victoria Primary School, which has a population of 1500 pupils, admission is an uphill task and a new parent has to part with about Sh15, 000 among other charges. They also charged a remedial fee of Sh1,000 for classes Six to Eight per month and Sh500 in the lower classes and Sh100 mock exam fee.

Similarly, Xavierian Primary School new pupils paid a uniform fee of Sh700, mock exam (Sh100) and remedial tuition (Sh500) per pupil. Maisha, Lake, Ragumo, Nyalunya, Oyola Primary School and Ofunyu Primary School also charge.

According to Owalla, they found that in some schools it was mandatory that each pupil has to pay what is adopted as the school norm.

For instance, at Union every pupil must pay Sh50 for report forms with school logo.

In Kibuye Primary School, all new pupils were to be admitted upon paying Sh2,000, Sh200 for new pupils and same amount for interview fees.

In Shauri Moyo, Bara, Okok and Kianja primary in Kajulu, Lwala Kadewa, Dwale Nyakune, and Oluowa it was the same song.

Similarly, Otonglo, Kotetni Primary School, Dr Robert Ouko, Okore Ogonda, Nawa, also charged hefty levies. In Ojolla, Chulaimbo and Nyahera the payment is divided in three sections, Sh100 for Term 1 exams, and Sh30 for second and third term. In Arya Primary School, admission fees was Sh500 and assessment and remedial fee Sh400, while mock fee is Sh100.

The survey carried out through one on one interviews as well as focus group discussions revealed damning avenues for corruption in the education sector.

Nyanza provincial director of education Geoffrey Cherongis however said some of the decision to pay extra levies emanated from the parents themselves.

He said charges also emanated from wide consultations within various DEBs and asked us to cross check further with the boards.

But interviews with a number of teachers revealed that since FPE was introduced in 2003 the Sh1,020 allocated per child remained static to date. This is even as the rising cost of living.

Several heads of schools claimed that the levies were legal because the DEBs sanctioned them. Therefore if the parents feel heavily burdened they are free to review the levies downward to ensure smooth running of the schools.

A head teacher confided to us that they were issuing valid receipts for all charges imposed, which is subject to audit, the woes notwithstanding.

Education Assistant Minister Ayiecho Olweny said they were contemplating raising the amount.

"We know that a lot of developments have taken place since 2003 and the Sh1,020 per child needs to be doubled now but we are still constrained by lack of resources," he said.

He promised to investigate why some schools charged exorbitant levies, which were unofficial.

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