Parents decry cost of stationery as schools reopen for first term

Traders selling ream papers outside Nyambaria National School, April 25, 2022. [Stanley Ongwae, Standard]

Parents were yesterday confounded by the high cost of learning materials as schools opened for first term.

They now want the government to cushion them from extra school levies charged in secondary schools.

Homa Bay National Parents Association chairman Julius Omuga said some secondary school principals had imposed too many levies on parents.

“I know of a school where parents have been asked to pay Sh25,000 for a student’s uniform. There are too many levies, which deter students from poor families from acquiring education,” Omuga said.

The chairman accused the government of lack of seriousness in implementing affordable education.

“On one hand, the government says it offers affordable education. On the other hand, school heads are imposing extra charges which make education expensive,” Omuga said.

He blamed the Ministry of Education officials for failing to cushion parents from the extra levies.

“Let the ministry officials come out and protect parents against the unnecessary school levies. Some of their policies are just said without implementation,” he added.

In Kakamega, parents decried high costs of education materials.

Long queues were experienced in bookshops, uniform stores, Bata Shops and supermarkets.

Parents who spoke to The Standard said the prices of books had increased.

Parents buying books at a shop in Mombasa. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

The price of a 120-page A5 exercise book which earlier cost Sh35 now went for Sh55, a textbook that previously sold at Sh600 went for Sh900. A school Bible traded at Sh1,200 up from Sh 800.

Additionally, an A4 file that previously sold at Sh35 now cost Sh70, a biro pen that sold at Sh15 was now Sh25. Photocopying paper that previously cost Sh400 went for between Sh550 and Sh600.

Jackline Wafula from Lubao said: “I had come to at least do my back to school shopping as early as possible before the prices are hiked but to my shock I have found the prices of learning materials, especially textbooks and exercise books, have gone up. I am just buying what I can afford. The last time I bought a school Bible at Sh700 now it costs Sh1,150,” said Wafula.

Margaret Andeso, a parent, said things were worse, especially in the wake of harsh economic times. She said she bought a photocopying paper at Sh680 up from Sh380.

Albert Mudobi of Akash Bookshop in Kakamega said he has three children and had spent Sh10,000 on learning materials.

In Kilifi, parents protested over increased cost of learning materials.

Elvina Luvuno who has two children in high school said she could not buy all the school items she needed due to the high cost.

“I was not able to buy all the items. I had a budget of Sh2,600 and could only afford three textbooks, a few pens and exercises books,” she said.

Anita Charo said she was not able to buy all personal items for her twin boys who are supposed to report back to school.

“I have bought 100 grammes of bathing soup at Sh25 which initially retailed at Sh15. I wanted to buy bar soap that would see them through the whole term, but due to the increase in prices I couldn’t manage,” said Charo.

“I am a farmer and through the proceeds of farming, I have over the years been able to take care of my family. Now with no rains, I had to start a fish business which is not table due to the hard economic times,” said Elias Manyeso.

A parent, Amina Cheo said: “I don’t have money to buy a pair of school uniforms for my daughter who is in Form Three at one of the schools in Kilifi. I had to buy her a skirt then she will get the shirt probably after midterm break.” 

Joyce Kalama, an attendant at Diga Diga book shop in Kilifi town, said she had received fewer customers compared to previous years.

Long queues were experienced in bookshops. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

“It’s now noon but I have served less than 50 customers who have bought half of the items they needed. As you can see there is no traffic. Back then, I would have served even more than 100 customers,” she lamented.

“The prices have gone up especially for exercise books; an A4 of 120 pages now goes for Sh75. It used to retail at Sh50. It’s not our fault but this has been necessitated by the hard economic times,” Kalama said.

Elizabeth Yaa noted that many parents who went to buy school uniforms went home empty- handed as they could not afford them.

She appealed to the government to streamline prices for uniforms and other school items to easy the burden on parents.

In Migori, traders led by Milicent Atieno said they recorded low business.

Francis Sudi, a book vendor, said few parents were buying the items.

Michael Magagi, a parent, said due to hard economic times they were unable to meet their children school needs.

Jagdish Patel of Shree Jay Ambe Mattresses said he hoped business would improve.

[Reporting by Benard Lusigi, Marion Kithi, James Omoro and Caleb Kingwara]