Poor students yet to join Form One due to lack of fees, bursaries

Presidential security officers subdue a school girl who was seeking President William Ruto attention during interdenominational and thanks giving prayers at Machakusi in Teso South in Busia county on January 21, 2024. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Thousands of pupils who sat their 2023 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations and got good grades are staring at a bleak future due to poverty.

More than 20 pupils from poor families who sat their KCPE at Kakamega Primary School now risk losing their Form One admissions.

Parents and guardians of the affected students say they have tried applying for bursaries in vain and their hopes are fast fading.  

Parents are required to raise over Sh54,000 and Sh40,000 yearly for national and extra-county schools respectively. This amount is exclusive of other requirements and purchases prior to joining Form One. Cumulatively, first term in Form One costs upward of Sh70,000. 

“Most of my students come from very humble backgrounds and are raised by single parents who lack the financial wherewithal to pay fees despite the potential their children have to excel academically,” Dickson Wanyangu, the head teacher of Kakamega Primary School, said. 

By December 2023, there were more than 7.8 million Kenyans who survive on less than $1.90 a day, according to statistics.

The data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics also shows that 2.97 million Kenyans are jobless today. The minimum wage in Kenya today is Sh7,544.

These statistics emphasise the need for the government to take proactive measures to align education with the Constitution’s guarantee that “every child has a right to education”.

The Kakamega Primary School serves to highlight the cases of hundreds of thousands of needy students across the country. Most of them have lost hope of ever joining secondary school unless government comes to their rescue.

"I am a single mother taking care of five kids. I do salon work but the returns are meagre. I need help to educate my niece," says Marion Jabriell, guardian of Lohen Saidi who scored 378 marks and was selected to join Tigoi Girls' in Vihiga County.

“We have tried several bursaries, including Elimu Foundation and the Equity's Wings to Fly, but were not successful.”

Susan Afandi, mother of Linda Daisy who scored 398 and was selected to join Butere Girls', says she does manual labour and cannot afford to raise her daughter's fee.

Phillip Kevin Ambenje who got 407 marks and was called to join Lenana School is also uncertain of joining the school. His mother sells second-hand clothes on the streets.

Mitchelle Akinyi who got 390 marks and was called to join Sironga Girls' in Nyamira is nursing hope that help will come to enable her join secondary school. 

Needier pupils whose fates are hanging in the balance are hoping for well-wishers to come to their rescue.

Award of bursaries by politicians, who have turned it into a political tool to reward or punish opponents, disadvantages the poor.

A section of players in the education sector have raised concerns over selective award of bursaries by political leaders at both county and constituency levels and have challenged the national government to rethink how best to award bursaries.

Margaret Onyango, a parent from Vihiga County, said the Ministry of Education is better placed to do that work in collaboration with school heads who know the individual needs of their students.