School transport charges have jumped by up to 80 percent as institutions seek to cover for the extra costs of complying with Covid-19 safety guidelines.
The institutions attributed the changes to higher fuel and maintenance costs as a result of additional trips made by their dedicated vehicles which currently only carry half their normal capacity in compliance with social-distancing rules.
Findings show that some schools had also opted to hire additional vehicles to cover for the shortfall caused by the reduced carrying capacity of their own vehicle with the costs being passed on to pupils and their parents or guardians.
“The school is now charging Sh9,000 for transporting my daughter, from the Sh5000 we used to pay within a five-kilometre radius,” said a parent at Sukari Presbyterian Academy in Kiambu County when contacted by Business Daily reporter.
At Mirema School off the Nairobi-Thika highway, transport charges have increased by 58 percent to Sh8,255 from the Sh5,200 initially pegged on a four-kilometre radius.
Parents with pupils at St Hannah’s Preparatory on Nairobi’s Ngong Road are also pay much more for transport after charges increased 33 percent to Sh16,000 from the Sh12,000 before the pandemic.
Hit by the steep rise in transport charges, some parents and guardians have opted for alternative transport arrangements, including taxis or private carpooling.
“My employer slashed my salary last year and the transportation hike is an extra burden. I have opted to be dropping my child to school in the morning then have a private car pick her in the evening as that will be cheaper,” said a parent at the school.
At Shepherds Junior School in the city’s Buruburu area, fees for transport from within the estate increased to Sh12,000 from Sh8,000 initially.
Thomas Burke Primary School located within Buruburu has increased charges for picking and dropping pupils within the estate from Sh5,800 to Sh6,900, reflecting a rise of 18.9 percent.
A parent at the Moi Educational Centre in Nairobi West said he had opted for private arrangements after the school hiked transport fees to Sh22,650 from the Sh15,000 pre-Covid.
A mother of three school-going children said a Sh500 raise in transport cost by St James Model in Busia had taken a toll on the family’s finances given that she is a single parent.
The adjustments have dealt a blow to many parents and guardians already grappling with pandemic-triggered layoffs, salary cuts and business closures.
By yesterday Kenya had reported 97,733 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 and 1,702 fatalities, with schools reopening amid social distancing challenges.
Kenya Private School Association (KPSA) chairperson Mutheu Kasanga said the schools have been lobbying the Ministry of Health to reconsider the requirement that school buses carry half capacity in vain.
“Our argument is that school buses are not like matatus, are disinfected often and are only making two trips per day hence have minimal contamination,” she said.
Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia on Wednesday told a stakeholder’s meeting that a final decision on school buses will be communicated in due course.
The consultative meetings to discuss protocols for school buses involve the ministries of Transport, Education and Health.
The safety protocols currently require learners to wear face masks while on board and maintain one-metre distance from each other.
The institutions are required to comply with Legal Notice of April 6, 2020 which licenses vehicles to carry not more than 50 percent of the capacity.