Headteachers want secondary school fees increased by Sh8, 000, a proposal that will anger parents who are already struggling with having to pay fees four times in a year due to a crash academic calendar.
Last year and this year, the academic calendar has four school terms, instead of the usual three, and the increment the principals suggested in a formal petition to the Ministry of Education would essentially take away a subsidy the government extended to cushion parents during Covid-19 pandemic.
The principals also want the government to boost the Free Day Secondary Education (FDSE) capitation in order to get the cash-strapped institutions out of crippling debts.
The principals, meeting in Mombasa under the auspices of the Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (Kessha), said the extra money will cushion schools from acute financial stress.
However, their proposal to increase fees was immediately opposed by the National Parents Association chair Nicholas Maiyo who said parents are already financially overburdened. He, however, supported the demand to increase the capitation.
“We oppose any proposal to increase school fees. Principals should use the funds they receive first and account for it,” Mr Maiyo said.
In a memorandum to the Ministry of Education, the school heads have proposed that fees paid by students in boarding secondary schools be increased by Sh8,000 and government capitation raised to about Sh30,000 from the current Sh22,244 allocated per learner annually.
“Schools are unable to pay suppliers, non-teaching staff and even buy foodstuff to maintain the students. If we get this additional funding, principals will be able to run schools more efficiently,” said the Kessha chair Kahi Indimuli.
According to the Ministry of Education fees guidelines, students in national and extra-county schools in selected towns should this year charge Sh45,000 while those in extra-county schools are required to pay Sh35,000.
The fees were reduced last year as part of the measures to cushion parents from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Initially, students in national schools paid Sh53,554 per year, Sh40,535 for extra-county schools while those in special needs secondary schools paid Sh12,790.
Mr Indimuli said management of schools had been complicated by the new funding model where money is sent to schools in four tranches following the reorganised school calendar. Further, Mr Indimuli asked the Ministry of Education to set up an exclusive kitty to fund infrastructure development.
“A large amount of the Sh22,244 per student is retained at the ministry to purchase textbooks and [pay for] the students’ medical cover. Some Sh5,000 is allocated for infrastructure development and the heads end up receiving very little money to run schools,” he explained.
While moving the fees increment motion, Kabianga Boys High School Chief Principal Joash Aloo said some parents were not playing their role in fees payment.
“Parents must realise that we don’t live in utopia. The inflation in the country has affected the cost of many items including food and if their children have to be maintained in a boarding school, then they must pay for the services offered. To run schools effectively, we need more funding,” said Dr Oloo.
Principals who spoke to the Nation said things have been worsened by the government’s policy not to pay for students who are over 18. They said once a learner attains adult age, their names are removed from the National Education Management Information System (Nemis).
Mr Indimuli said many learning institutions, especially sub-county and county schools, do not have science labs, which has affected performance.
“In most cases, school heads have to present for national exams students who have no prior knowledge of the items in the laboratories,” he said.
The principals also demanded that it should be mandatory for students to buy reference materials such as Bibles, Koran, mathematical sets, atlas, dictionaries and kamusi as they are key to learning. Last week, Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha told principals to demand the items from parents.
“Let us not rush to ask parents not to bring these items,” he said. Addressing the principals, Basic Education Principal Secretary Julius Jwan ruled out the possibility of fees and capitation increment unless it is subjected to public participation.
“You know any decision to release funds to schools must be deliberated upon and, therefore, I don’t want to pronounce myself on this matter but I promise that action will be taken. Otherwise, a parent can take me to court,” he said.
The PS asked principals to use the available resources and to ensure that they account for the capitation funds and the school fees paid by students.
“As you complain for more money, please make sure, you are able to account for all the money in a schools,” he said.
Dr Jwan said the Sh16 billion sent to secondary schools last week will be in schools’ accounts before they open for the first term of 2022 next week.
The PS also cautioned school heads against sending students away because of unpaid fees or failure to bring the reference materials.
Source: Daily Nation