Parents association can be reconstituted

Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i recently declared the Musau Ndunda-led Kenya National Association of Parents (KNAP) a moribund outfit. This, effectively, sounded the death knell for KNAP as schools were barred from further remitting monies to the outfit on parents’ behalf.

In fact, some school heads are already threatening KNAP with demand letters for refund of remittances. Barring the fact that KNAP has been in existence for close to two decades, it is apparent that the ground on which KNAP operated had, legally, long shifted.

The CS specifically observed that as it stands today, KNAP is operating ultra vires the provisions of the Basic Education Act, 2013. The law seeks to oversee its very establishment as a parents representative body in Kenya’s education sector.

The Act, in its Third and Fourth schedules respectively, specifically deals with issues to do with formation, composition, and functions of schools’ Parents Associations and Boards of Management (BOMs), both of which are structurally distinct but functionally linked.

Part 5 of the Third Schedule of the Act categorically states that there shall be established National Parents Associations, County Parents Associations, and Sub-County Parents Associations elected by Parents Associations from schools through a delegate system.

Part 1 of the same schedule provides that every public and private secondary schools in Kenya shall establish a Parents Association that brings on board every parent with a child in the concerned school, as well as a representative of teachers in that school.

It is, therefore, legally abundantly evident that Part 1 of the Third Schedule of the Basic Education Act, 2013 does give life to Part 5 of the same Schedule. Sometime in the last quarter of 2015, KNAP, with explicit knowledge of schools’ administrators, did visit all public secondary schools throughout the country calling upon parents to a meeting at which the main agenda was election of parents representatives to schools Parents Associations and BOMs.

With tacit support of school administrators, those elections were done. And I do think that was KNAP’s major mis-step. Prior to those elections, though, it is worth noting that KNAP had just been accorded enhanced legal visibility by the courts having previously suffered the ignominy of non-recognition by other local representative bodies that it considered its contemporaries in the education sector, which bodies were very disdainful of KNAP and so jealously guarded their operational zones against KNAP’s possible invasion.

Elated by the court verdict, KNAP was emboldened and quickly sought to cover lost ground, literally speaking, by organising the parents’ elections in the public secondary schools throughout the country last year, as already pointed out. Much as those elections might have been well-meaning, it is now turning out that they injuriously fell short of the dictates of the Basic Education Act, 2013.

Now that KNAP has been barred from schools by the Education CS, does this, in any way, imply that the role of Parents Associations in schools management in Kenya in line with the Constitution 2010 been hampered? While asking schools to dissociate themselves from KNAP, the Education CS did, in the process, observe that a review of KNAP’s by-laws, and specifically Article 1 on membership, revealed that KNAP is not – actually, has never been – the umbrella body of parents anticipated in the Act because of lack of a bottom-up approach in securing its membership.

So, the problem to be fixed to legitimise KNAP has to do with its membership from its lower echelons to the apex. That KNAP has rushed to court to overturn the CS on this matter will not hold water, legally speaking.

Feigning no pretence to a legal mind, my take is that the only sober, safe and legal way out for parents in this matter is for KNAP to eat humble pie and fold up without seeking redress from the courts. This will pave way for schools across the country to source for the initial membership to Parents Associations at school level, which membership will morph to form Sub-County Parents Associations and then graduate to the formation of County Parents Associations.

It is the County Parents Associations that will come together to eventually form the National Parents Associations.

Perhaps at this point in time, it may impress education stakeholders, particularly the parents’ fraternity in the country, if the Education CS could proffer an explanation why the Basic Education Act, 2013 in Part 5 of the Third Schedule envisages the formation of many parents associations at the national level instead of just one as is the case with other local representative bodies in the education sector like Knut, Kuppet, Kessha, Kepsa etcetera.

Be that as it may, the Act nonetheless anticipates parents’ participation in electing their representatives through delegates system to give the entire electoral process a stamp of legal standing and sense of public ownership.

Unless this is done, parents will remain incapacitated in their collective bid to mobilise themselves to have a say in the management of schools that their children attend. This must not be the case at all.