Caught between obeying a government order and running on empty, some school heads have sent learners home for fees, barely days after reopening.
Thousands of students had reported back to school without fees, emboldened by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha’s assurance that no one would interrupt their studies, whether or not they had cleared their fees.
However, the principals, especially those heading boarding schools, said some parents had taken advantage of the directive to deliberately not pay fees, making it difficult for the institutions to run smoothly.
Some headteachers said the CS’s directive was untenable as government subsidies under the free day secondary education programme do not cover all the costs of running a school.
They said they needed more money this term to upgrade infrastructure in line with Education ministry guidelines to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
This happened even as the capitation funds sent to schools started reflecting in the institutions’ accounts yesterday.
Principals who spoke to the Nation said the money had hit the operations and tuition accounts, but the Education ministry was yet to issue a circular on the breakdown and use of the money.
Prof Magoha had announced earlier in the week that the ministry had disbursed Sh4 billion to primary schools and Sh14.6 billion to secondary schools. He warned school heads against misusing the funds.
Education Chief Administrative Secretary Zack Kinuthia revealed he had received more than 50 complaints from parents whose children had been denied readmission owing to fee arrears.
He cited the case of Mr Kimani Kambogo, whose daughter at Makuyu Girls High School in Maragua Sub-county was sent away over this term’s Sh16,000.
The other CAS in the ministry, Ms Mumina Bonaya, urged schools not to send children back home. At a leading secondary school in Nakuru county, only 250 out of 1,200 learners have paid school fees.
The headteacher said the school has had to withhold lunch for those yet to settle their fees.
“A majority of parents are taking their children back to school, claiming that the government has advised them not to pay fees,” added the school head, who requested not to be named for fear of reprisals.
Kenya National Union of Post Primary Teachers (Kuppet) Tharaka Nithi Branch Executive Secretary Patrick Gitonga defended the move by some principals to send students back home, since schools cannot be run without money, he argued.
Mr Gitonga said if students are to remain in school without paying fees, the government must disburse enough money to feed them and meet other needs.
“If the government won’t release enough money to cater for all the needs in school, principals will have no option but to send learners home to bring the fees,” he said.
In Baringo County, headteachers complained that unpaid fees had denied them cash to pay creditors and support staff.
“We have a lot of debts to be settled. Some of the debts have accrued from 2019,” said a headteacher.
In Uasin Gishu, Education Executive Joseph Kurgat said the county had allocated funds to help bright but needy students in secondary schools.
“I want to urge parents and guardians to collect bursary application forms at the ward administrators’ or ward representatives’ offices,” Mr Kurgat said.
In Turkana, the county education director, Mr Peter Magiri, said parents needed to agree with principals and headteachers on modalities of payment as the children go on with learning.
He said education officials at the sub-county level were visiting schools to ensure learners were not sent home and to encourage teachers and parents to seek consensus on how to pay the fees.
“We will not send children home, as that will automatically encourage dropping out,” Mr Steven Aruoto, the headteacher at Lopangai Primary School, said.
Students who had fee balances at Katakwa and Adanya Salvation Army secondary schools in Teso North, Busia County, were on Tuesday asked to leave.
The principal of Adanya Salvation Army, Mr Evans Gor, admitted that he had sent the students home and asked their parents to accompany them back to school to explain how they would clear the balances.
In Kakamega town, learners thronged the streets after they were sent back home.
Students with fees arrears at St Martha’s Mwitoti Secondary School in Mumias East Sub-county were not allowed back until they cleared all the fee balances.
Other schools where students were sent home were Nyapora Secondary, St Romano’s Matawa Secondary (Mumias West), Lugusi Friends Secondary (Lugari) and Bukhaywa Secondary (Shinyalu).
Migori town’s Kadika Girls Secondary School principal Roselyn Ochieng said the institution will accommodate all the learners.
“Although the fee issue is a challenge, we’ve started off with what we have. Our concern is to have the students settle, but the parents must play their role,” she said.
At Kereri Girls High School in Kisii, students who were sent home could be seen loitering on the streets of Kisii town.
In Samburu, some parents said they were unable to pay school fees.
“I hope they don’t send my children back because even if they do, I do not have anything now,” Mr James Lentirankoi said.
And in Kirinyaga, at least 14,000 needy students from Gichugu Constituency have benefited from a Sh35 million Constituency Development Fund (CDF) bursaries.
The beneficiaries received their cheques in Kianyaga town during a meeting convened by area Member of Parliament Gichimu Githinji.