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School principals defy directive on fees and non-necessary items

By Jacinta Mutura | May 4th 2022 | 4 min read

Parents and their children Savanni's Bookshop, a long Latema road, Nairobi for the last minute shopping on May 4, 2022 [Jenipher Wachie, Standard]

As Form One students start reporting to their respective schools, many principals have defied a government directive to reduce admission costs.

This has forced parents to dig deeper into their pockets to meet extra expenses.

Schools are insisting that some of the items regarded unnecessary and surplus by Ministry of Education must be purchased.

In his address during the official launch of the 2021 Form One Selection and Placement, Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha instructed principals not to overburden parents with long lists of requirements. 

The Standard however has learnt that schools have prepared a long list of requirements, jeopardising chances of students from poor backgrounds furthering their education.

Among the items deemed unnecessary include exercise books, class readers, novels, photocopying papers, atlas, mathematical tables, hockey sticks, pangas, jembes, slashers and hand brushes.

And with schools opening doors for First Formers, parents are complaining that they have been asked to buy some of these items against Prof Magoha's directive.

"We are committed to ensuring that parents and guardians of learners who will be joining Form One are not overburdened with unnecessary requirements that increase the cost of education," prof Magoha said.

"The idea is to admit the Kenyan child into a Kenyan public school.” 

Close to 1,225,502 candidates who sat 2021 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) are joining Form One for the first term.

Basic academic materials

The term will end in July after the school calendar was condensed into seven months due to disruptions caused by  Covid-19.

While some schools are demanding some of the items and are only asking for uniforms and basic academic materials, certain principals listed the ‘banned’ items as optional.

For instance, a national boys school in Nairobi listed a hockey stick and two pairs of pajamas as optional items.

“The cost of living has gone up and educational materials are not exceptional yet we only had two weeks to buy all the items schools are asking for," said Michael Mwangi, a parent.

"It puts us in a tight corner but we must do it for our children.” 

Some schools are also contravening government’s directive on fee payment by insisting that students must pay the whole amount before admission.

According to Prof Magoha, each student is getting Sh22,244 for capitation to cover tuition fees for secondary schools while parents are supposed to cater for the boarding fees.

He warned principals against sending away students who have not paid fees in full.

The CS instructed schools to adhere to the fee guidelines that clearly show how much parents are required to pay per category of school.

“People have lost jobs due to Covid -19 pandemic. If somebody comes with half of the fees, take it and admit the child, then arrange for the remaining fees to be paid,” said Magoha.

Kahi Indimuli, the Kenya Secondary's Heads Associations (KSSHA) chair is challenging the directive barring schools from sending students home over fees, arguing that schools are operating on shoe-string budgets.

"When a blanket ban is issued that children should not be sent home, it puts schools in a financial crisis and accumulated debts," he said.

"As principals, we know the students who cannot be sent home but there are parents who take advantage of the directive and refuse to pay."

Indimuli said some parents accumulate fees, which is eventually not paid yet after the end of the four-year cycle, the ministry requires them not to hold KCSE certificates on grounds of uncleared arrears.

"With that policy by the ministry, I will release the certificate but I will not get the money because once they leave school, you cannot get them not unless you pursue them through the courts," he said.

"That leaves us in problems with suppliers, salaries, statutory deductions and other financial obligations."

On uniforms, parents cite exploitation since they are supposed to buy them from schools or specific retail shops at higher prices. 

Meanwhile, bookshops and uniform shops experienced low sales with parents citing harsh economic times.

“The back-to-school period is stressing us," said Maryann Njoki, a parent.

"The required items are too many while some of them being sold in town are very expensive so I opt for cheaper ones in Gikomba market."

According to Gudka Saulen, a retailer in Nairobi, some schools are asking parents to buy items that are rare in the market.

“I don't know why schools are asking for ridiculous colours for pajamas that are not in the market," Saulen said.

"Some parents are moving from one shop to another looking for light green pajamas and bedcovers with peculiar colours. Some of these specifications are unnecessary.”


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