Poor but deserving students locked out of top public schools
| Feb 3rd 2014 | 2 min read
Thousands of bright and needy students are being locked out of secondary schools because head teachers are ignoring fees guideline designed to make national schools affordable to both the rich and poor. Gradually over time, the line between private and public schools vanished.
The original idea was that the Government would pay an average of Sh10,000 annually per student admitted to public schools and the parents Sh18,000 to meet education expenses.
Gradually, public school heads, cheered on by overzealous school boards lumped additional levies on the fees guideline and the list grew exponentially from development levy, laboratory levy and school bus fees to a myriad of unexplained charges Today fees charged in public schools can go up to as high as Sh100,000 annually.
Even after getting admissions to national schools, many children are forced to join cheaper, poorly equipped schools. In some painful cases, parents have even been forced to remove their children from national schools due to the high fees. Education, long prized as the ticket to success is slowly becoming a preserve of the rich. This development is disturbing on two fronts.
Firstly, it locks out the poor from economic opportunities later in life.
The school you attend for your secondary education can determine how you perform during the secondary exams, where you will be admitted for university education and ultimately the kind of job you secure. Even more disturbing is that head teachers have too much control over use of school funds, which are not even audited by the Education ministry. The Government must quickly step in and address a crisis that could reverberate for generations to come.
The ministry must ensure the original noble idea of a fee guideline is followed to the letter and clamp down on added levies. Further, it must ensure collected fees are accounted for and are not spent on grandiose projects that waste public funds. But more than that, a stricter level of accountability that forces school principals and boards of governors to account for millions in their custody through an elaborate auditing system should be initiated.
Where funds have been looted, those responsible should be charged in court. The Government should also interrogate some of these levies which are repetitive and questionable. Why should students admitted every year pay for a laboratory that was built and completed before they were admitted? Or be levied for a bus already acquired and used before their time?
The reality is that on the ground, the right of many children to acquire good sound education is hindered by the current fees structure.
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