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What next for students after certificates withheld?

Sharon Anyika during interview at Emusala in Lurambi on October 11, 2022. School head teachers blamed for not releasing KCSE Certificates they are holding over fee arrears. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

It's always the hope of secondary school leavers that after years of hard work and perseverance, they get the opportunity to realise their dreams.

However, many learners who excel in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) are staring at a bleak future after schools withheld their certificates over unpaid school fee.

To the learners, each day presents gloom as they continue to explore ways to settle their arrears and obtain their certificates. Some schools have even denied them result slips.

This happens despite an order by the government that schools should not withhold certificates of former students with fee balances.

This is the situation that Santos Ochieng, a former student at Ngege Got Kachanja Secondary School in Migori has found himself in.

Ochieng sat his examinations in April this year and said he has arears of Sh35,000.

"I had school fees challenge which sometimes kept me out of school," Ochieng said.

After the examination, he went to the school to get his result slip but he was told to pay at least half the amount first. "My father has been ailing and my mother has no job," he said, adding that he is looking for money to clear the fee arrears.

He had applied for a plumbing course at Elgon View college in Migori where he was to enroll last month but cannot because he does not have the certificate.

"I have doing menial jobs to raise the money but I have not got the amount yet," he said.

In Kisumu, Isaiah Odhiambo, a former student of Lions High School is also yet to join university to pursue a degree in Education despite scoring a B+ in last year's examinations.

He said he cannot get his certificate from his former school due to fee arears his family cannot settle.

He owes the school Sh65,000.

"Well-wishers used to pay my school fees but they stopped," he said, adding that the principal let him study and sit his exams without paying the fees.

His mother, Caroline Achieng, mwho is an itinerant trader at Nyalenda, said she is unable to settle the amount.

In Kakamega, Kevin Likabo who sat his examinations at Ebambwa Secondary is at home because of an outstanding Sh12,000.

He said that his fee was being paid by well-wishers and his parents but they couldn't manage to clear the balance.

He has asked the school to give him the certificate so that he can join a tertiary institution but he has not been lucky.

He has an admission letter from Shambere Technical Training Institute for a plumbing course but won't join without an original certificate.

"I am worried that I may lose my place because I was to report to the institution in September," said the 20-year-old.

Larry Nandwa sat last year's KCSE examinations at Ematiha Secondary School but cannot join any other institution because he is yet to pay a balance of Sh2,500.

He wants to join Shambere Technical Training Institute but cannot because he does not have an original KCSE certificate.

He said he was an on-and-off student at school as his fee was being paid by his mother.

Dorcas Akani, 21, who sat her KCSE at Indangalasia Secondary School also can't join college because she lacks a Form Four certificate.

"I have a calling letter from Shambere TTI to study electrical engineering but they won't allow me until I present the Form Four certificate," she says.

"I need Sh6,000 to get it."

She has been house help in Nairobi but saved only Sh2,000 which she took to the school but she could not be given the document.

But Sharon Anyika, 20, who sat her examinations at St Monica Lubao Secondary last year was lucky to get a well-wisher to clear her fee balance.

She also received a calling letter from Shamberere TTI to study hair dressing but was to present a Form Four certificate before admission.

"The well-wisher paid my balance of Sh4,000 and I just need to go and collect the certificate and join college during the next intake as I failed to join in September," she said.

"It is a painful experience to be locked out of transitioning to the next level of education."

Cyrus Akhonya of Jisimamie Elimu Initiative, a group championing education at the grassroots, says that locking out students because of fee balances hurt the society.

"The more they stay out, the higher the chances of them losing hope in life," he said. The group has assisted about nine learners to join Sigalagala Polytechnic and 15 to join Shamberere TTI.

"We were able to get photocopies of the certificates which we took to the college administration and explained the situation," said Akhonya.

Sisters Faridah Wangari and Ashlyn Njeri from Gatumbi village, Kigumo constituency, are also stuck.

They sat their examinations two years ago but have been doing odd jobs after their former schools withheld their KCSE certificates over Sh76,000 arrears.

Njeri scored B Plain at Ng'araria Girls in Kandara and was selected to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering at Kirinyaga University but she owes her former school Sh29,000.

She said her family have since paid Sh10,000 but the school administration has declined to release the certificate.

"I am doing odd jobs at home waiting for a well-wisher to rescue me," said Wangari.

Wangari's sister, Faridah was at Kigumo Girls High School where she got C grade and was to join Michuki Technical Institute for an electrical engineering course.

She had a fee balance of Sh47,000 but but has so far paid Sh5,000.

She said she was employed in an MPesa shop but it closed down and she became a house help.

"I am now trying another venture after I got tired with house chores hoping somebody will hear our plight and assist," she said.

Kigumo youth leader Joseph Kibugi wa Ihii blamed the government for failing to ensure school leavers are issued with their academic certificates.

Kibugi said there are more students supposed to be pursuing degree and diploma courses in the villages due to lack of certificates.

"The government should order the schools to release the certificates and waive the balances," said Kibugi.

In Trans Nzoia, a former student of Kabuyefwe Girls Secondary School is accusing the institution of holding on to her KCSE certificate over fees arrears two years after she sat her national examinations.

Sharon Nafula Bahati scored Grade C- and has school fees arrears of Sh44,000. According to her grandmother Juliana Bera, Bahati is unable to pursue other courses because she does not have a certificate.

She is optimistic that her granddaughter will get her certificate from the school.

"We are even scared of trying to visit the school to collect the document since the balance is too high, yet we need it," said Bera.

But the school said Bahati's father had visited the school prior to the exams and committed to paying the fee.

She said that neither the father nor the grandmother had gone to the school after the examinations.

She said even Bahati had never gone back to clear with the school.

In order to collect a certificate, said the principal, a student has to clear with all the departments including the finance section and that being a boarding school, Bahati's guardians had to honour their pledge and pay fees just like the other parents.

"The father has a written pledge on how he was going to clear the school fees after her daughter was done with the exams.

"He was here and requested us to allow his daughter to sit the exams as he arranges to clear fees and that is the last time I saw him," the school's principal said.

She asked the family to follow the due process and clear with the school in order to collect the certificate.

Reporting by Anne Atieno, Sharon Owino, Robert Amalemba, Boniface Gikandi, Martin Ndiema

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