Parents, schools' headache over Form One, JSS learners uniform

Long queues in Nakuru City on January 5, 2024, as parents engage in last minute rush and scuffle to buy uniforms and other school amenities. [Daniel Chege, Standard]

Parents and schools are staring at confusion ahead of Form One reporting and Grade 7 transition following two separate orders by Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu to streamline uniform.

As Form One students prepare to report on Monday and Grade 7s learners transitioning to the junior secondary school, parents face a fresh wave of confusion and financial strain.

It is now emerging that school principals have disregarded a recent directive by Machogu on uniforms.

Machogu had directed that parents be given liberty to buy school uniforms in the open market provided the principals give proper guidelines on the attire.

Principals are still directing parents to buy school uniforms from specific shops in blatant disregard of Machogu’s directive.

A sample of school fee structures reveals that school uniform would cost as high as Sh20,000 denting the years-long effort by the government to ease the burden on parents.

Similar directives had been issued under three past Education Cabinet Secretaries– Amina Mohamed, Dr Fred Matian’gi and the late Prof George Magoha.

With only hours to the Form One reporting, focus is now on Machogu to make good his threat by enforcing the directive that would ease parents burden.

The latest confusion however, spans from Machogu’s statement giving leeway to Grade 7 learners to continue using their primary school attires.

“To ensure smooth learning at the JSS level, the Ministry of Education wishes to instruct all schools to ensure that Grade 7 learners be allowed to attend school in uniforms that they used while in Grade 6 in 2023 as parents and guardians make efforts to buy new outfits for the JSS,” Machogu said.

The statement released by Machogu on Friday evening has however split the education fraternity with two major teachers unions picking opposing sides and parents settling for cost saving.

Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers(Kuppet) rejected the directive terming it as a recipe for confusion to schools.

The secretary general, Akello Misori accused the government of creating unnecessary confusion in the education system.

Misori said as much as the government directed junior secondary to be domiciled in primary schools, it will not be a walk in the park.

‘’We suggested that secondary schools are better placed to host the JS learners. How can you say the Grade 7, 8 and 9 are secondary when you ask them to wear the same uniform as the lower classes,’’ Misori said.

Misori further said the existing secondary schools are better placed to accommodate learners in Junior Secondary School opposed to the current arrangement that places them in primary schools.

‘‘We have already confused the learners for one year and we will not allow this to continue on our watch,’’ Misori said.

However, Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) welcomed the directive saying that it is the first step towards the implementation of comprehensive school.

Collins Oyuu, the KNUT secretary general said that the pre-primary, primary and junior school have been merged to form a comprehensive school thus it beats the purpose to have uniformity in the institution.

“Education is already expensive thus there is no need to make it more expensive, thus the directive will ease burden from parents” Oyuu said on a phone interview with the Standard.

Oyuu further said that the directive would ease the cost burden, a position supported by National Parents Association chairman Silas Obuhatsa.

Obuhatsa, hailed the move saying  this will lessen parents burden of going for a different outfit.

‘‘We appreciate the government’s move to allow students in Junior Secondary to continue using the same outfit. It will be a relief for us parents since we have just moved from the long holidays, hard economic challenges,’’ he said. Obuhatsa blamed schools which had taken advantage of the second uniform in the primary set up to fleece parents.

‘‘Unscrupulous businessmen have been reaping from parents using the window that was opened last year. It has waged war between heads of schools and parents,’’ he added.

What is worth noting however is that principals are still burdening parents with high cost of uniforms even as Machogu attempted to provide leeway for financially strained parents and learners.

An admission letter for Lenana School– a top national school– seen by the Sunday Standard reveals that the school has instructed parents to pay Sh11,000 for uniform provision ahead of Monday reporting.

A parent– whose name is concealed for good reasons said he had to pay first term fees before being given admission letter when he sought a transfer from the institution his son had first been placed.

“I was instructed to pay Sh11,000 to uniform distributors and submit the receipts to the school. This is the money I would have used to shop for him,” he said. His case is not unique as another parent who’s son is joining Vihiga High School said that he was to part with Sh10,500 before getting an admission letter.