Come to the rescue of cash-strapped schools

Education CS George Magoha. [File, Standard]

School principals are seeking permission to raise school fees.

Their argument is that the cost of living has spiraled out of control hence, they cannot continue to operate on current budgets and manage to run school programmes successfully.

Indeed, the principals cannot be faulted on this. The cost of rice, maize, beans and cooking oil have all more than doubled in just a couple of months, making it a nightmare for them to continue feeding students as before.

But while the necessity for increasing fees is apparent under prevailing circumstances, school principals should not miss the fact that the parents who are expected to meet the cost of any fee increments are shouldering even heavier burdens.

Granted, both parents and principals are feeling the heat of the high cost of living, but it is worse for parents who have to take care of other basic and compulsory family needs like feeding, clothing and healthcare in an economy gone haywire.

Increasing fees at this time, as much as it is desirable, is tantamount to locking a big chunk of students out of education. In a bid to recover lost time caused by a 10-month school closure period occasioned by Covid-19, the Ministry of Education brought school terms back to back, which hardly gives parents time to look for money.

As a consequence, many have huge fee arrears that they are hard-pressed to clear. It does not help that Covid-19 disruptions led to job losses and a slump in small scale businesses on which many parents depend to raise fees.

The conundrum presented to both parents and head teachers by this situation demands that the government steps in and takes charge of the situation. It is not enough to ask principals not to send students home; concrete action must be taken.

One of the alternatives available is to recall Parliament and get MPs to deliberate on approving a supplementary budget for the Education ministry to allow it increase capitation and remit it immediately.