Parents cry foul over high prices of all Form One requirements

Education CS Ezekiel Machogu and PS Belio Kipsang. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

Parents were on Sunday grappling with exorbitant costs of items and levies as they prepared to take Form One students to their respective secondary schools.

A nationwide spot check on Sunday by The Standard revealed that most parents were in last-minute rush preparation ahead of today’s Form One admission.

Unlike other Sundays when most shops and book outlets would remain shut, it was a busy day yesterday as most of them opened as early as 7.30am.

Parents flocked to business premises for stationery, uniforms, bedding, branding and other personal effects for their children.

In South Rift counties, some school principals have conspired with school uniform outlets to beat the Ministry of Education directive on uniforms.

In Bomet County, outlets believed to have conspired with school principals redirected parents to schools for purchases, contrary to the government directive.

“Unfortunately, we cannot get uniforms in outlets in town, and we have been directed to go and purchase them at school. When we called the school, we were told to come with Sh12,000 for a pair of uniforms plus a sports kit,” said a parent who did not wish to be named because her child might be victimised when she reports to the school.

This was the same in counties such as Kisumu, Nyamira, Kisii, Nyeri, Mombasa and Uasin Gishu, where some principals directed parents to buy uniforms in particular outlets or buy the same in school.

“I have been told to buy my daughter’s uniform from a particular shop in Kisii town or school. The uniform is going for Sh17,000, but if I buy the same from the market in Nyamira or Nairobi, it is less than Sh10,000,” said a parent, who added that the school had made it clear that she will return home with the child if the uniform material texture is different.

In preparation for Form One admission, the ministry issued a directive to school principals to neither direct parents to any particular outlet to purchase uniforms nor sell them in schools.

Parents in Kericho County who were caught up in the rush to buy school items lamented about the high prices of school uniforms, bedding and books.

Education cost

They now fear that the cost of education could make some of them unable to educate their children if the Ministry of Education does not intervene.

At Roret, Sondu, Kapkelek, Kiptere, Kapkatet and other markets within the county, parents were stranded with their children trying to find suitable prices for items.

Most essential items required for admission had their prices doubled.

“A metal box that previously retailed at Sh1,200 is now Sh2,500, and I have to pay the fare, which is also hiked,” a parent told The Standard.

The vendors blamed the hike on the increase in iron sheet prices, operation costs and tough economic times.

Despite Monday being the official opening day, several parents are still hunting for secondary school slots.

Parents blamed the computerised selection for placing their children in far-flung schools.

The government is pushing for a 100 percent transition of all learners who sat KCPE exams, having placed all the 1.2 million in secondary schools.

Some principals have expressed fears of a cash crunch in running schools, especially with the admission of Form Ones.

“We expect the government to increase capitation now that it has reduced school fees burden on parents. The current rate of Sh53,000 for national and extra-county schools was set 10 years ago, and there is a need to add allocations due to the high cost of living,” said a principal.

Another school principal, who spoke on condition of anonymity, claimed the current school fees levels, which the government recently reduced further, were set in 2011 and that inflation had since increased the cost of living.

In Samburu County, at least 1,000 Form One students joining secondary schools in Wamba, Samburu East constituency, received uniforms, mattresses, blankets, bed sheets, buckets and books from area MP Jackson Lekumontare.

While handing the items to the students, Lekumonteare said he was forced to intervene as many parents were unable to do so due to the harsh economic times.

Some 400 students have been admitted to Waso Secondary School, and the other 600 will be joining Wamba Secondary School.

In the North Rift region, Magdaline Chemutai, who was shopping for her daughter in Kapsabet, Nandi County, said that lack of money delayed her preparation for Form One admission since the cost of living has gone high.

“We spent more money in the December holiday, and we had to sell some livestock and agricultural produce to pay school fees. I am supposed to pay full-term school fees amounting to Sh26,000 on top of buying other items for my daughter,” she stated.

Most shops were crowded, and businessmen were packaging school uniforms to be dispatched to various secondary schools before the end of the day, as stated by Dickson Mutai, one of the shop’s attendants.

“This is the only season when our business is at its peak, and we have gone out of our way to serve our customers and deliver the ordered school uniforms to the local schools,” he said.

In Trans Nzoia, parents also used the Sunday break for last-minute preparations to secure requirements for their children.

Kitale, which is usually a quiet town on Sundays, was busy as parents trooped to shops to buy uniforms and other items for their children.

No money

Damaris Otieno, a resident of Migori town and parent who will be having her son join Form One at Maliera Secondary School today, said preparations were hard as there was no money.

Collins Ouma, another parent in Migori town who will be having his daughter join Asumbi Girls’, said he was struggling to get money to buy uniforms and other items required for his daughter’s admission.

[Stories by Kiprono Kuragat, Daniel Chege, Nikko Tanui, Michael Saitoti, Edward Kosut, Osinde Obare, Anne Atieno, Eric Abuga, James Omoro and Stanley Ongwae]