Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) Director Julius Jwan during an interview with Standard on Monday, May 20, 2019 [David Njaaga, Standard]

The government has ordered all secondary school principals who have overcharged their students to refund the extra fees.

Reacting to cries of desperate parents who complained of being exploited by some principals, the Ministry of Education yesterday issued tough instructions through a circular. Principals of secondary schools have been directed to refund extra fees they charged parents against the set guidelines.

Basic Education PS Jwan Julius said parents who paid extra money should get a refund. “Any fees collected above the revised guidelines be refunded or treated as prepayment of fees for continuing students,” said Jwan.

He also said that all extra levies charged on parents against the fees guidelines be refunded to parents.

The directive is contained in an August 9 circular signed on his behalf of Paul Kibet, director of secondary and tertiary education.

Jwan also said that the entire management of secondary schools found to have breached school fees guidelines shall be punished in the new move to cushion parents.

Citing the Basic Education Regulations 2015, section 44, 45 and 46 on free and compulsory education, Jwan said individual members of schools Board of Management (BOM) will be punished for charging additional levies and high fees.

“The members of the Board of Management of an institution which contravenes regulation 44 or 45 shall jointly and severally be guilty of an offence under the Act,” said Jwan.

The PS said the Ministry has received numerous complaints from parents, sponsors of needy students and the general public regarding schools charging illegal levies.

Parents association chair Nicholas Maiyo said most schools have introduced some hidden illegal costs in their fees which they are demanding from parents. “Some of these monies are not even receipted. They call them all sorts of names and parents are coerced to pay this money,” said Maiyo. Jwan said reports at the Ministry of Education show that schools recover these levies upfront before crediting money paid as fees into the students’ fees accounts. “This makes students have false fees arrears leading to them being sent home,” said Jwan.

The PS also says that the lunch fees should be made optional based on prevailing circumstances. “Where lunch programme is in place, the same should be made optional and be reasonable taking into consideration the reduced term or academic year.”

The government lowered this year’s fees by up to Sh8,500 citing effects of Covid-19 that reduced school calendar by nine weeks.

Subsequently, parents with children in national and extra-county schools located in towns are expected to pay a maximum yearly fees of Sh45,000. Those with children in county and sub-county secondary schools are to pay a maximum of Sh35,000 per year while special needs schools should charge Sh10,860.

A look at sample fees structures across the country reveals that many principals have breached the directive, with most charging parents Sh53,000 based on the old circular.

Most schools charge boarding fees of between Sh26,000 and Sh32,000 against the Sh24,000 recommended by ministry. Jwan now directs that schools display their fees structure prominently on their notice boards.

“All the County and sub-County Directors of Education are directed to report to the Principal Secretary any Board of Management whose institution is charging illegal levies with immediate effect,” said Jwan.

The PS also directed that any school that desires to charge amounts above the stipulated fees must make a formal request to the Cabinet Secretary and will only do so after written authorisation has been granted.

“No child will be sent away for non-payment of such fees. Schools must display their fees structure on their notice boards,” he said.