Government must get tough on school heads charging extra fees

Sylvester Odongo is helped carry his belonging by his mother Florence Odongo as he arrived to school during form one admission at Kisumu Day High School in Kisumu City. [Michael Mute, Standard]

In the past, many school principals have ignored warnings by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and the Ministry of Education on charging irregular levies.

And going by fee structures for the 2023 First Term, the directive on extra fees will be ignored yet again.

Head teachers have devised clever ways of extorting money from unsuspecting parents. A look at the 2023 school requirements in both national and extra county schools show school managers hiding behind projects to charge extra levies. Some have even threatened to send learners away from schools to get the monies.

The extra levies have nothing to do with the government's move to scrap the subsidy on Secondary school fees. The Government move, according to Education Cabinet Secretary, is occasioned by the return to normalcy in the school calendar.

A circular from the ministry shows that parents will have to Sh53,554 for national schools, as was before the reduction. This is to apply to national and extra county schools in seven counties.

But beyond the ministry's directive many school heads continue to burden parents with extra charges. To date there are only a handful of school heads interdicted for charging extra fees. This points to the weakness of the ministry to enforce its directives.

During the releasing of Kenya Certificate of Primary Education results, the Education CS maintained that all candidates will be admitted to Form One under the 100 per cent transition policy.

Yet such actions by some school heads might derail this noble initiative by the Government. This is why we want to urge the Government not to watch helplessly as school principals push parents to the wall over illegal charges. Education CS Ezekiel Machogu must crack the whip and crack it hard too.

This is coming at a time when there are audit queries over how some schools have used the government's capitation for schools.

Where schools genuinely require extra monies, given the rising cost of living, there are modalities laid down for doing so. This involves engaging with the education stakeholders including district education officers and parents as a sign of good faith.

Many parents are yet to fully recover the aftereffects of the covid-19 pandemic and school heads must be sensitive to this fact.

The Government must not let unscrupulous teachers take advantage of the parents. Meanwhile, as the normal school calendar kicks of in January, we urge the government to spare no effort in ensuring every runs smooth.

The usual hurdles of teacher shortage, lack of equipment and delayed disbursement of capitation funds should not be the case this time. CS Machogu should work with every stakeholder in ensuring back to school is without unnecessary disruptions.