Rich students take place of poor in Kenya’s top public schools

Rich students take place of poor in Kenya’s top public schools
Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi.
By Dann Okoth

Kenya: Secondary education in Kenya’s top public schools is slowly becoming a preserve of students from well-to-do families as head teachers ignore Government guidelines to keep fees affordable.

Parents are now struggling to shoulder the cost of secondary education that has gone through the roof, and many have even been forced to remove children admitted to national schools after failing to keep up fees payments. Ministry of Education guidelines recommend that public schools charge Sh18,000 per year, while the Government tops up Sh10,265 for every student.

But the fees have soared to as high as Sh100,000, driven up by a raft of new levies introduced by head teachers.

The state of affairs that seemingly offers education to the highest bidder has put the future of thousands of bright but needy students in jeopardy.

Bernard Kimutai scored 384 marks to emerge the best pupil of Ong’ata Barrikoi Primary School in the 2012 Kenya Certificate of KCPE. Kimutai, who aspires to become either a pilot or a medical doctor, was elated when he was selected to join Mang’u High School.

But his poor parents could not afford the Sh91,000 fees annually at the prestigious national school and he had to settle for a place in the modest Emurua Dikirr Secondary School.

For More of This and Other Stories, Grab Your Copy of the Standard Newspaper.  

Even relatively well-to-do middle class families are finding it hard to cope with the soaring fees.

And shockingly, the Ministry of Education admits it has no audit of what schools charge.

Officials say there is no information on what the schools have levied in the past few years.

“We cannot avail that information at the moment because we do not have the data,” said Kennedy Buhere, a communications officer at the ministry.

Reports indicated school heads were furnishing the ministry and Treasury with inaccurate statistics of learners in their institutions to attract funding.

In June 2012, the Government announced a major audit of schools after it emerged the State was funding ‘ghost learners’ when the institutions inflated enrollment figures. But two months later, the exercise was halted in the vast Rift Valley due to vested interests and infighting among officials.

While the Government recommends Sh18,000 school fees per year, additional levies by the institutions have pushed the figure to between Sh90,000-100,000 in some cases.

The extra levies include building fees, swimming pool fees, and special diet fees for students with medical conditions, entertainment fees, school bus fees and school tour fees.

In 2001, some 3000 students in central Kenya were expelled from school for failing to pay a modest levy to buy a dozen motorcycles for school inspectors.

With private schools charging even higher fees, students from poor backgrounds now wind up in rural schools or miss out completely, some with their academic dreams shattered.

Estimates indicate that of the 844,475 students who sat for last year’s Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE), only about 56 per cent will get secondary school placements.

The extra levies charged by the institutions, and which the Ministry of Education is on record as having vehemently condemned, are partly responsible for denying thousands of students Form One places.

Speaking during the launch of the 2014 Form One selection exercise at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, Education Cabinet Secretary Prof Jacob Kaimenyi warned heads of schools and their boards of management against charging parents extra levies.

“Boards of management should adhere to the ministerial guidelines on charging extra levies. They should also be guided by the Basic Education Act 2013, Section 29 that has clear provisions on charges,” he added.

Kaimenyi explained: “The creation of national schools was not meant to be that expensive as to hurt poor parents whose students are in Government schools. Rather it was to provide opportunities for bright students to access fast-rate education in these institutions.”

Yesterday, the Kenya National Association of Parents Secretary General Musau Ndunda termed as “impunity” the “outrageous” fees charged by schools.

Ndunda told parents relief is coming soon from the court, where they filed a case challenging the high fees.

All the extra fees parents have been asked to pay so far without regard to the Education Act will have to be refunded by schools, he added.

“We want the court to declare all the fees structures issued by individual schools null and void because that is what they should be,” Ndunda said.

But concerns have been raised that the Sh1,000 and Sh10,000 Government subsidy for the Free Primary and Free Day Secondary Education programmes introduced in 2003 and 2008 respectively may not be enough, given the high cost of living.

A report by the Task Force on the re-alignment of education to the Constitution recommended the 2008 grant for secondary education be increased by 20 per cent.

Together with an ICT component of Sh500 and Sh5,799 increment for lunch, the task force proposed the per capita grant be increased to Sh19,238 per annum.

“Based on unit cost analysis, the level of annual capitation should be at least Sh58,585 per pupil,” said the report released on February 2012. 

Equally, the free primary school capitation grant of Sh1,020 should be increased to at least Sh5,185 per child per annum, as per the 2010 projections, the task force recommended.

The Kenya Primary School Head Teachers Association (KEPSHA) recommended to the task force that from expenditure records in schools, the annual grant should be set at Sh7,751 per pupil.

“Consequently, schools have resorted to charging parents levies for a range of activities, including supplementary assessment examinations, additional tuition and development levies,” the report said.

Citing inflation, ministry officials concede Sh18, 435 may not be adequate to meet the cost of secondary education in public secondary schools.

The Government has since disbursed Sh48 million to each of the national schools to expand infrastructure so that they could accommodate more students but only a handful of schools have used the money prudently.

The ministry insists schools must follow the procedures in requesting to charge extra levies; and that in approving the extra levies requested, the schools are handled on their own merit, based on the peculiar needs of the schools.

Do not miss out on the latest news. Join the Standard Digital Telegram channel HERE.

Get the latest summary of news in your email every morning. Subscribe below

* indicates required
public schools form one selection school fees