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Thousands of Form One students report to new schools

By Standard Team | January 10th 2018

Thousands of Form One students reported to their new schools on Tuesday as confusion revolved around the provision of free secondary school education.

The Government has dispatched Sh29.5 billion to fund free tuition in all public schools.

But a number of parents protested that they were being asked to pay more, especially for school uniform and meals.

They accused some schools of working with school uniform distributors to charge more.

Extra shopping

Some schools were also on the spot for asking new learners to buy extra items such as skipping ropes and cleaning rags.

A spot check by The Standard in Western region revealed that some day schools were charging between Sh5,000 and Sh10,000 per student to cater for lunch throughout the year.

Parents were also required to pay an extra Sh5,500 for school uniform before a student could be admitted to some of the day schools.

At St Mary's Emaculate Nambale Urban Secondary School, parents paid Sh5,000 for uniforms. And at St Mary's Mumias Girls High School, an extra-county school, parents were paying Sh14,920 for uniforms and another Sh2,800 for mattresses. 

A number of parents questioned the Government's free education pledge following the extra charges.

“I have been asked to pay some money as fees for the year. We want the Government to be clear on the matter or deal with teachers who are defying Government directives,” said a parent at one of the schools.

Another parent in Busia County said his child's day secondary school was demanding an extra Sh10,000 per student.

Similar complaints

Similar complaints were registered in Bungoma and Vihiga counties, where parents urged the national government to intervene.

At Kakamega High School, Chebuyusi, Bunyore Girls, Mukumu Girls, St Peters Boys, Bungoma High and Friends School Kamusinga, Form One students accompanied by parents and guardians started arriving as early as 7am Tuesday.

In Kilifi, County Director for Education Moses Karati said the national directive on free secondary education was being implemented.

At St Thomas Girls Secondary School in Kilifi town, principal Eunice Mwaisege said the school was not accepting cash.

“Some parents have brought cash but we are not allowed to handle cash, so we have advised them to deposit it in the bank and come with the bank slips,” said Ms Mwaisege.

She said the school had been allocated 167 Form One slots, a decrease from last year, when they were allocated 197 students.

In Mt Kenya region, Form One students and their guardians braved long queues under the scorching sun waiting for admission.

Day schools reported a record number of new students, with parents eager to take advantage of the free education.

Ngangarithi Secondary School principal Samuel Muthee said the school had received the first batch of free learning materials.

“We have already received all the books the Form One students will use. We have also received the funds that had been promised by the Government hence parents have no reason to keep their children at home,” said Mr Muthee.

Lunch money

The only money parents at the school are required to pay is Sh3,000 each term to cater for lunch.

Across the country, parents still complained about the high cost of school uniform, as shops made a killing from the high demand for kits and equipment.

In some institutions, parents were required to write bankers' cheques for as much as Sh7,000 in the name of a specific uniform distributor before collecting the uniform at the school.

"We are still paying so much for uniforms even though learning is free. The Government should also look into this matter because we are being exploited," said Nancy Wanjiku, a parent.

Most of the schools have largely adhered to the Ministry of Education curriculum to avoid issuing unnecessary demands on parents.

Still, a number of schools are making unique requests from the new learners.

At Mahiga Girls, for example, the new learners are required to carry a white embroidered cloth which, according to school's admission letter, will be used to cover the students' trunk.

Cleaning rags

In other girl’s schools such as, Tumu Tumu and Naro Moru, the new learners were required to buy cleaning rags.

In Murang’a, a number of head teachers complained that they were yet to receive adequate funding to expand their facilities to handle the high numbers expected under the free secondary education programme.

At St Joseph Boys, principal Wilson Yego said the school planned to admit 432 new students to Form One after the introduction of free learning.

At St Anthony Boys Kitale, parents expressed satisfaction with the reduction of school fees by Sh22,000 from the usual Sh75,000 in national schools per year.

Some parents whose children attend extra-county and county schools said school fees had dropped from Sh52,000 to Sh40,000 per year.

In Nairobi, parents were paying up to Sh10,000 to cater for first term meals and were also expected to add Sh3,000 and Sh1,000 for second and third term respectively.

“The challenge is buying the uniform. A blazer costs Sh3,000 and trousers are Sh1,000. A shirt is going for Sh500 and a sweater is Sh1,000,” said a parent who identified herself as Catherine.

This called for some innovation.

"I will get the trousers from the market at a lower price since it does not require a school label," said Catherine.

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