Parents decry high costs as Form Ones report to schools on Monday

Candidates who sat their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam in March are set to join Form One starting Monday.

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

And school principals, 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.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha, while unveiling Form One selection on June 15, said of 1,179,192 candidates who sat the 2020 KCPE exam, 1,171,265 have been placed in secondary schools.

Some 36,254 candidates were selected to join national schools, 201,067 learners were to join extra-county schools, 213,591 candidates will go to county schools while 718,516 are set to join sub-county schools.

Earlier, the government had planned to have Form Ones join various schools by July but the date was pushed to August to allow parents and guardians prepare for the transition.

The admission of Form Ones comes barely a week after schools reopened for the third term after a one-week break.

In the North Rift region, parents who rely on farm proceeds to fund their children’s education have expressed frustrations occasioned by change of education calendar due to Covid-19 pandemic.

Some parents who spoke to The Sunday Standard said starting first term in July had disoriented their schedules in paying school fees from farm proceeds.

“Changes in education programme has affected our plans in clearing school fees for our children. First term normally begins in January when we have harvested produce and sold some portions to earn money for fees,” said Paul Kerich, a parent and farmer in Nandi.

Jackson Kwambai, a parent and farmer in Uasin Gishu, said: “We often harvest farm produce around November and December, and it would be easy to pay school fees after selling part of it.”

And with the expectation of a 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary school from this week, some school managers have cited inflation, accumulated school fees arrears running into millions of shillings and strained infrastructure among challenges giving them headache.

While the recent government school fees adjustment is a reprieve for parents, some principals in North Rift have expressed fears of a cash crunch in running schools, especially with admission of Form Ones from tomorrow.

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

Making savings

He said Sh5,000 allocated by the government for infrastructural development was too little and that most school heads had been making savings from boarding fees to complement the upgrade of facilities and also pay the Board of Management (BoM) staff.

Another principal whose school has arrears of over Sh6 million wondered why the government failed to involve all stakeholders before reducing school fees.

“While classifying schools and allocations as national, extra-county and county schools, food prices are uniform in the market and we suffer due to low allocations in our county schools,” said the principal.

Paul Rotich, Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) secretary in Nandi County,  said the Ministry of Education should have engaged all stakeholders in fees review.

He said the government should hire enough teachers, including BoM teachers.

[Reports by Titus Too, Bradley Sikolia and Nikko Tanui]

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