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Parents grapple with high costs of books as schools reopen

EDUCATION
By Boniface Gikandi | October 12th 2021
Ethan Ndogo a grade six pupil at Mount Kenya Academy in Nyeri is assisted in selecting textbooks by his mum Maureen Liz at Khimji Bookshop, October 11, 2021. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

Parents are feeling the pressure of having to pay school fees for the fourth time in a year.

As schools reopened today, parents said, apart from paying the required fees, some schools were demanding extra money to cater for tuition classes. Others decried the high costs of books and school uniforms.

Some said other schools had imposed extra levies on parents, citing the need to expand infrastructure to accommodate the increased number of students as a result of the 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary level.

The extra charges are channelled in special development school accounts or sent to the parent representatives, who then send the amount to the class teacher.

At Mugoiri Girls High School in Murang’a County, each parent is required to pay Sh5,200 for a new school bus project, Sh3,000 per term for extra tuition, and Sh1,500 for installation of smart screens in all classes.

In Nyeri town, Purity Karuga, who was shopping with her Form Three son, said their school had demanded an extra Sh10,000 for an infrastructure upgrade.

“It is a hard year, and that happens even as we are earning peanuts from our tea farms this year," Ms Karuga said.

Peter Kamaru, another parent from Murang'a County, said parents have now resorted to borrowing money from shy locks who demand repayment in a month.

"I have obtained Sh40,000 at a 25 per cent interest rate to pay fees for my three children. This is punitive to the parents who have lost hope of accessing bursary from the CDF," he said.

Jane Wanjiru said the schools have reopened, but most parents had no school fees. "We shall plead with principals to allow our children for some time."

The Murang'a County government said it had released Sh20 million to finance 3,000 students under the Nyota Zetu Education Programme.

Governor Mwangi wa Iria said the programme is designed to help the needy access quality education.

"This is one of the programmes designed to increase the number of professionals in the county," said Iria.

In Meru County, Margaret Nkatha, a parent from Tigania East, said they were looking forward to the reopening of the schools but they lacked financial resources.

She said the drought had hit the area affecting their main income-generating stream, khat or miraa sales.

Kairi Ituuru, the headteacher of Antuanduru Mixed Secondary School in Tigania East, said principals were grateful following the government announcement that capitation had been sent to schools.

"With most parents decrying inability to raise fees, the government resources will come in handy," said Ituuru, who also chairs the Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) in the area.

In Eldoret town, it was business as usual at books and school uniform stores as parents lined up to buy school items in preparation for the new term.

Nelly Kichwen, a parent from Ziwa in Uasin Gishu, spent the better part of the day in Eldoret town shopping for her five school-going children.

“Book prices have increased. I am buying a book that was sold at Sh500 last month at over Sh600 right now, which means I will use more money than I had budgeted for,” Kichwen said.

As for Stanley Chepkulei, a parent from Simat, the increase in fuel prices had affected the price of every commodity in the market, and parents will have to dig deeper into their pockets.

“I came to buy school uniforms and other items for my child, a student from St Teresa Tartar in West Pokot County, I paid more than I expected. We urge the government to reduce the cost of fuel,” he said.

Chepkulei said parents should ensure that they give their children enough money if they are travelling by themselves to school because there could be an increase in bus fares due to the high cost of fuel.

The parents have also asked the government to step in and provide some learning materials for pupils, especially those under the new Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC).

Eunice Cherop, a parent to a Grade Five pupil, said CBC is a competitive curriculum that requires joint efforts from the parent and government.

Cherop, an Education Officer, said most parents are disadvantaged by the new curriculum.

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