Parents feel the pinch of tight school calendar as fee arrears accumulate

Hundreds of Parents outside Nakuru West NG-CDF office in Nakuru town on October 14, 2021, where the area Mp Samuel Arama was issuing school fees bursaries. [Kipsang Joseph,Standard]

As the country struggles to get back to the normal school calendar, many parents have been pushed to the edge by the changes that have impacted school fee payments. 

A spot check by The Saturday Standard established that most parents have been flocking to politicians’ offices with hopes that they will be lucky to access bursaries for their children.

Many are, however, returning home downcast after being told that the funds for bursaries are insufficient.

Elizabeth Mibei, a mother of four living in Ngata in Nakuru, has been in distress since schools reopened on October 11 for second term after a week-long holiday.

“The holidays are short and I am yet to raise fees for my children all of whom are in high school. I have to pay Sh4,000 for each child per term,” said Ms Mibei. 

Mibei, who lost her husband in 2018, said raising Sh16,000 for the new term was a tall order, noting that she had nothing to dispose of after selling her produce to raise fees. 

“I raised a similar amount in first term, which lasted for only 10 weeks, by selling a goat and taking several bags of beans to the school. I had nothing to sell for this term,” said Mibei. 

Raphael Odindo, another parent from Kaptembwo slums, said that it has been embarrassing to see his three children leave home for school yet he had not paid for their lunch fees for the term. 

Odingo, a plumber, said that educating his children during the Covid-19 pandemic had been the hardest task, noting that his meagre earnings could barely sustain them at home.

“I was angered when my children came home for the holiday just two and a half months after clearing their fees for first term. Raising Sh12,000 within a week for the second term was a tall order as jobs are hard to come by,” said Odindo.

Rosemary Otuya, who has three children in high school and a third year university student, said that she had been issued with a one-week ultimatum by their school to clear fee balances. 

She said that while the university had given a longer grace period, those in high school gave her the greatest worries as schools threatened to send them home or deny them food.

“I had an accumulated balance of Sh12,000 from the previous terms. A week after closing, the school was expecting Sh28,000 from me. My family depends on a kiosk that barely makes that much for an entire academic term,” said Otuya. 

She said that the tight school calendar has forced her to draw much from the business which has pushed it to near collapse. 

“It is embarrassing when one cannot provide for their children. My shop has nearly run out of stock yet it is from it that I feed and provide for other needs of my family,” said Otuya.

At the Nakuru Town West constituency offices, we caught up with the MP Samuel Arama processing over 3,700 bursary applications for day school learners alone. 

“It is by luck the CDF committee foresaw this struggle and set aside funds for bursaries, which would have been issued early next year in a normal calendar year. A week after opening applications, 3,750 learners applied for bursaries,” said Arama. 

The MP said they would spend at least Sh22.5 million by issuing an average of Sh6,000 to each applicant. 

“We had to dialogue with school heads to allow learners remain in school as we wait to receive funds for the CDF kitty. Some schools were on the verge of suspending lunch programmes due to lack of funds,” said Arama.

Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri said his office had been a hive of activity as applicants sought bursaries. He said the new calendar was confusing and financially straining to parents.