Parents decry tough times as schools reopen

Parents queue to buy books at Anvi Bookshop in Kisumu on July 25, 2021. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

Book stores and school uniform shops recorded brisk business even as parents lamented about the harsh economic times.

“I have managed to get just a few items for my son due to financial constraints. I hope the school management will allow him in as I struggle to get more to buy the remaining items,” said Jane Wairimu, a parent in Kitale.

Many parents interviewed spoke of the challenges in raising money to meet the cost of education for their children.

“I have been struggling to raise fees for my two children and it is a nightmare for me. I operate an eatery in Kitale, but the earnings are not good due to Covid-19. I don’t know how to raise the required fees,” said John Maina.

In Nandi, parents who spoke to The Standard cited harsh economic times that have made it difficult to make ends meet. Gladys Kosgei, who skipped going to church to spend the better part of yesterday morning shopping for her son, said she did not have enough money to buy all that was required by the school.

“I don’t have money to buy over six books for my son who is joining Form One in one of the local schools. With only Sh3,000, I am forced to pick three books for the first term,” said Mrs Kosgei. A shop attendant said for the last one week they have been able to attend to over 2,000 clients, mostly parents buying books for their children returning to school.

A spot check in Kisumu town yesterday revealed long queues at books and uniform shops, with parents claiming that prices of commodities had been hiked.

Despite Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha indicating that the government had secured textbooks for all learners, the parents claimed they had been issued with long lists of books. Adan Hussain, a  parent who had visited Anvi Bookshop in Kisumu, was overwhelmed as he tried to balance his budget to cater for his three children. “The bookshops are claiming that the increased taxes by the government has hit them hard and they have to pass the burden to us, leading to hiked prices of books. A book I bought at Sh120 last year is now retailing at Sh300. This is sad,” said Adan.

Adan said he had to leave out some of the books as his budget could not meet the new prices.

Phena Atieno, another parent, said she had to sacrifice some domestic needs in order to afford the books required by her three children.

With the economic impacts caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Atieno said many parents have been overwhelmed. “The government should come to our rescue. This is the time we need the government most,” she said.?

In Taita-Taveta County, parents will have to dig deeper into their pockets following the introduction of extra fees by some public secondary schools. 

In separate fees structures from various schools seen by The Standard, parents will also be required to pay more for water, electricity, and workers in their respective schools.

Among the new programmes to be funded by parents include academic progress, recruitment of new teachers, education days and activities.

In some schools, parents claimed principals had doubled fees from Sh35,000 to Sh70,000.

“We are now paying Sh70,000 from Sh35,000. They have increased development fund,” said a woman whose son is in a boarding school.

At Canon Kituri Secondary School, parents will be required to pay Sh14,000 more for their children’s upkeep.

In addition, parents will be required to buy two reams for printing paper. According to the fee structure, parents will pay Sh35,000 as per the government directive for Form Two and Form Four.

The school principal, Ms Grace Mwawasi, said parents and the management had agreed that students will be given tea and two buns during tea break all the days of the week.

She said each parent is required to pay Sh500 per month for the same. “All Form Three and Two students are required to replace old uniforms and shoes. Our school shoes must have shoelaces. Bed covers for boys are blue and for girls pink. The items are available at the school at a cost of Sh1,000,” stated the senior principal.

“We appreciate all parents and stakeholders for your support has enabled us to realise an upwards trend in academic performance. Let us continue working as a great team to attain better results,” stated Mwawasi.

At Dr Aggrey Boys High School, Principal Rodgers Mwafungo said they had earlier met and agreed with parents to employ more teachers.

“We have an acute shortage of teachers and we met with parents to agree on how to employ more teachers. I met parents with children in Forms One, Two, and Three where we made a resolution. I will also meet Form Four parents and if we do not agree with them, then I will respect their decision,” he told The Standard yesterday.

Bura Girls National School Principal Eunice Wambua said her institution has not raised fees.

She, however, noted parents need to be fully involved in the matter to avert confrontation.

Ms Wambua disclosed that fees had been reduced from Sh53,544 to Sh45,000 for national schools as per the directive from the government.

“I believe that for any extra levies parents must be involved. Some parents in the Coast region are, however, engaging in politics that are detrimental to education,” stated the principal.