Schools reopen amid the biting high cost of living

Education
Several students were stranded for hours at various bus parks across Nairobi. [Jenipher Wachie, Standard]

Schools reopened on August 18, 2022, after a two-week break to allow the country hold its General Election.

The Ministry of Education closed the institutions as most public schools are used as polling centres.

On Thursday, several students were stranded for hours at various bus parks across Nairobi as learners travelled back to school, with operators of Public Service Vehicles taking advantage of the rush to hike fares.

Machakos-bound matatus were charging Sh500 per person, an increase from Sh300, while those going to Thika doubled fare from Sh100. Those heading to Kakamega were paying Sh1,500.

Sora Sedo, a parent who was taking his child back to Matinyani Boys Secondary School near Kitui town, complained of increased fares.

"I travelled from Moyale with my son overnight, paying Sh7,000 to Nairobi. We normally pay Sh6,000. We expected to be at the school by around noon, but due to inadequate transport, we are still stranded here," Sedo said.

Motorists plying the Nairobi-Eldoret route raised fares from Sh800 to Sh1,000.

In Western region, parents thronged bookshops and supermarkets in major towns yesterday.

Many complained about high prices of commodities, including textbooks, bar soaps and shoes, among other items.

"I have bought a pair of shoes at Sh2,500 for my daughter, she will not be allowed in school without it," said Fredrick Mukolwe from Bukura in Kakamega County.

Some of the parents said they were instructed to clear school fees. "We were asked to clear the fees on opening day, but that will not be possible because I have three children who are supposed to report to school today," said Mukolwe.

In Bungoma, hundreds of learners and their parents were stranded at the bus terminus, waiting for PSVs.

Some of them resorted to using boda boda to their destinations.

In Busia, some learners from nearby schools were seen trekking in groups while in Vihiga, learners scrambled for the few available vehicles to reach their destinations.

Jennifer Awuor, a resident of Migori County, lamented about a lack of money to pay school fees.

“It is good that they go to school, but we don’t have money,” Ms Awuor said as she waited for a vehicle to take her Form Four daughter to school.

Alex Bulemi, who has  two children in grades four and one said many parents had no money to buy their children the basics required in school.

“The economy is so hard on us. I wonder where I will start from as I am unable to buy the books and education materials required in school,” Mr Bulemi said.

The situation was similar in Kisii, where most students remained stranded at the town's main bus terminus for the better part of the day.

Most transport companies are yet to have their vehicles back on the roads, with a majority hiking fares by at least 30 per cent.

Matatu operators in the Mt Kenya region conducted brisk business as they ferried students to various towns.

However, unlike previous years where fares are hiked to maximise profits, most PSV saccos maintained the fares at regular rates.

According to Nakkons Sacco matatu operator James Kihungi, who plies the Nyeri-Othaya-Nairobi route, many parents and students had refused to pay higher fares and this necessitated the adjustments.

Kenya Primary School Heads Association (KEPSHA) Nyeri County Chairperson Peter Ngatia said many school administrators were concerned about the high cost of living and the future of CBC, following the expected change in government.

He said while head teachers were struggling to keep students in school after the short breaks, parents are strained in paying school fees.

Ngatia said the capitation funds for free public primary and secondary schools was not sufficient to compete with the high cost of goods.

In Taita Taveta, parents appealed to the management of public schools not to send away students with fees arrears.

Those interviewed said dozens of students will remain at home due to lack of fees and imposed extra levies.