Parents bear heavy burden as students report back to school

Parents queue to buy uniforms in Mombasa. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

Schools open Monday for the second term amid the high cost of living that has pushed parents to the edge.

After the government resolved to condense four academic terms into one calendar year, parents are groaning under a heavy burden and have to make tough choices.

Parents who spoke to The Standard expressed their frustrations at meeting education needs, noting prices of all school items have doubled.

June Chidzuga, a mother of three school-going children, said she is contemplating moving her children from boarding schools to day secondary schools.

“We have tried to hold on since last year, but we cannot bear it anymore. It has come a time to make the hard decision of moving my children from boarding to day schools and one in private to public school,” said Chidzuga.

Jane Oyoo, who has a daughter in form one and a son in form four, said the financial burden is overwhelming.

“I have to buy new uniforms for my two children and also, school fees as they resume school. I am under financial stress,” said Oyoo.

Although the government is providing free textbooks in public schools, Oyoo lamented that parents are being pushed by schools to buy reference materials such as dictionaries, maps, Bibles/Korans, geometrical sets, mathematical tables and language set books.

“I have a full library in my house. I have to buy study materials for them every year, reams of printing papers, exercise books and pens,’’ she added, noting that there are extra levies for remedial classes, teacher motivation programmes, infrastructure and other activities that await her.

Man loading a box at Mwembe Tayari bus terminus in Mombasa. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

Mary Njeri took her three children to Gikomba and Uhuru markets to buy second-hand merchandise to prepare her children for the new school term. 

“I have three students who are reporting back to school. Both need shoes and uniforms which I cannot afford from downtown shops,’’ said Njeri, adding that schools have demanded that learners clear fees on or before the opening day.

Joel Ingoi, a parent at Igunga Girls’ High School in Vihiga, said 2022 has been a tough year for most parents.

“We have been paying fees after every two months with the price of basic items hitting the roof. Soap and petroleum jelly for my daughter have become a luxury,” he said.

He noted that transport from Nairobi to the school is Sh1,500, which rises to Sh2, 000 during peak days, adding that he has resolved to use train to save transport money.

The rise in the cost of basic foodstuff and other essential supplies is posing a challenge to boarding schools, with principals struggling to keep the institutions afloat.

Some secondary school heads have threatened to increase fees, citing the tough economic times.

The principals have urged the government to review the capitation from the current Sh22,244 to Sh30,000 for each student, saying the current government subsidies and fees paid by parents is not enough to keep learners in school.

Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (KESSHA) National Chairman, Alfred Kahi Indimuli, said the cost of running schools has risen and the government capitation and tuition fees paid by parents is not sufficient to run schools, since the cost of commodities had increased.

Woman buying books at a bookshop in Mombasa. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

“All our schools are highly indebted and immediately we open, our suppliers will be at our doors demanding payment,” said Indimuli.

Chairman of the Parents Teachers Association, Nicholas Maiyo, confirmed that parents are heavily burdened.

“Parents are bearing the burden due to the condensed calendar. If we allow learners to stay at home longer, we would not clear the syllabus as planned,” he said

He further noted that the government reduced the school fees from Sh54,000 to Sh45,000 for national schools, and Sh35,000 for other schools to cushion parents from the pangs of Covid-19.