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Parents’ headache as Form One fees go through the roof

The last two weeks have been tough for parents whose children are joining Form One in secondary schools across the country.

Parents interviewed spoke with anger and pain of how some of them have been forced to pay as much as Sh100,000  in shopping and first term fees to have their children admitted.

“I find it unfair to compel a parent to buy a hockey stick regardless of whether the child will be playing hockey. Imagine more than two hundred students reporting to school with hockey sticks,” lamented a parent whose child joined Form One at St Joseph’s Kitale.

Those who came without hockey sticks were ordered to go and buy them, he said.

Another parent whose daughter joined Form One at Mukumu Girls in Kakamega said it was unfair to force parents reporting with children from all over the country to shop for school items at a single shop.

AFFORDABLE INSTALLMENTS

The parents also want school fees spread equally across the three terms, to make the installments affordable.

Buru Buru Girls is charging newcomers Sh91,000, while State House girls is charging Sh88,700 per year.

The guardian of a Form One student joining Agoro Sare High School in Homa Bay County said he was forced to go back home with the child for failure to raise money for the boy’s personal items.

Agoro Sare, an extra county school, charges Sh56,000 school fees for students joining Form One. Besides that, parents must pay Sh17,000  for personal items such as utensils, mattress, blankets, text books, among others.

“I’m stranded with my relative as I cannot raise the Sh52,000 required for admission. The first term fees is Sh35,000 and Sh17,000 for basic utilities,” he said from his Migosi Estate home in Kisumu town.

But Agoro Sare Principal Maurice Ogutu said the charges for school items were approved by the Parents Teachers Association and the school board.

A parent whose daughter joined Form One at Moi Forces Lanet in Nakuru County said he parted with Sh10,500 for uniform alone.

“I would have spent less than Sh6,000 if I had bought the same items outside,” said Mr Kosgei.

A four-inch high-density mattress costs Sh2,000 minimum, but schools charge up to Sh5,000.

A woman whose son was called to Kenyatta High School in Mwatate said she was barred at the gate with her son on Monday, after presenting a bank slip of only Sh25,000 of the total Sh77, 000 fees required.

“I was forced to return home with my son after the principal said they can only accept Sh57, 000 to admit the child,” she narrated at the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) offices in Mombasa, where she went hoping to be linked up with a sponsor.

HIGH MAINTENANCE COST 

But even as parents lamented of the high charges, principals also complained of high costs of maintaining the children in school.

They denied increasing fees unilaterally, saying it was always done in consultation with parents and county education boards.

“No headteacher is mad enough to raise school fees without consulting parents. We usually call them for meetings and give reasons for raising the fees.

“Afterwards we also inform the county education board, which writes a letter back to us either accepting or rejecting, before we begin implementing,” said Mr Enos Jilo, the principal of Moi Forces Academy, Mombasa.

The extra fees they charge is to enable the school board to employ more teachers to address shortage occasioned by increased enrolment.

According to the principals, basic utilities such as uniform, utensils, basins, mattress, and blankets must now be purchased in schools to maintain uniformity and discourage theft among the students.

Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi now wants boards of management not to restrict parents to specific suppliers of school uniforms and other items. He says parents should have a free hand to purchase them from different school outfitters.

Kenya National Association of Parents Secretary-General Musau Ndunda said the government should follow its warning to school heads and boards with stern action.

“We cannot be warning them year in year out. Why should a school ask for a ream of photocopying papers from more than 300 students yet they get cash from government to buy stationery?” asked Mr Ndunda.

Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Chairman Omboko Milemba says the government bears the blame for the high fees due to its failure to implement a task force report which spelt out measures on reduction of fees charged by secondary schools.