Rethink school fee guidelines, Kaimenyi
By Edward Mahanda Indakwa
| June 26th 2015
School principals are firm that secondary boarding schools cannot be run on the fees directed by Education Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi that these institutions must charge. This position has been supported by teachers’ trade union Knut, which has termed the guidelines “unworkable, based on pressure from politicians and civil society and (bent) on plunging schools into a management crisis.”
This circus poses a dilemma for national and other so-called ‘big’ schools. The schools don’t just post good academic results because they enroll bright students. They have elaborate academic programmes, superior learning facilities and an army of subordinate workers. All these things do not come cheap. Equally, they generally feed their students on a better diet. You cannot mold top brains on weevils and inadequate food rations. So naturally, they charge higher fees, sometimes three times as much as smaller schools.
The principals understand that lower fees would affect set standards, cause unrest among students and ultimately lead to poor results. Of course the first people to bay for their blood would be the very same populist politicians. Civil society may argue that the intervention is necessary because the cost of education is beyond the reach of common mwananchi. However, their prescription is wrong. You cannot lower fees without alternative ways to fill the financial gap. There is nothing for free. You cannot get something out of nothing. Someone must pay for it.
First, politicians have no business running bursary schemes because they want to make everyone happy, which is impossible. School principals are better placed to identify the neediest and brightest.
Second, free education is a pipe dream. We are a poor country. It doesn’t make sense for the government to ‘waste’ Sh15,000 on school and exam fees on a child whose parents can fork out Sh20,000 in pocket money. Let government subsidies go to those students who are truly needy.
In the meantime, while Prof Kaimenyi issues idle threats at press conferences, principals are blissfully charging the old fees with the full support of parents.
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