Schools sneaking in extra charges to go round fees directive

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By SUNDAY NATION TEAM
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Schools are forcing parents to pay extra charges in defiance of a directive on fees that was issued by the Education ministry, the Sunday Nation has established.

Schools are set to reopen for the second term starting Monday. Earlier in the year, the government released a circular indicating the fees that each parent and guardian is expected pay to keep their children in the various day, boarding and special schools across the country.

However, an investigation by the Sunday Nation has revealed that parents are being asked to pay more than what is stipulated. Some parents complained that some principals even threaten to expel their students should they fail to pay the extra fees.

Some schools have been informally asking parents to pay “motivation fees” for teachers. The amounts range from Sh2,000 to Sh3,000 per pupil, every term.

No records are kept for these payments as it is a casual arrangement, often coordinated by class teachers and the parent’s representative per class.

A parent at Kereri Girls in Kisii County who sought anonymity disclosed that, each term, they are forced to cough up an extra Sh 3,000 as “motivational fees”.

“We originally used to pay Sh2,000 but we were shocked when it was raised without any consultation and we had no choice. The principal threatened that our daughters would not be taught even during official school hours should we fail to pay up,” the parent claimed. The principal did not respond to text messages and her phone was switched off.

The situation was similar at Rang’ala Girls in Siaya County, where parents pay an extra Sh2,000 for motivation. This extra fee, according to parents, is paid in cash and no receipt is given upon payment. The principal, Ms Susan Akoth, denied claims of any extra fees paid at the school.

“The claims are not true and if auditors come to my school right now, they will prove that this is not the case,” she said.

In February this year, school heads demanded an increase in school fees, saying the current charges are unrealistic.

In a proposal presented to the ministry, they also complained the money channeled to schools by the government is not enough and they cannot run schools effectively. They wanted the Ministry of Education to raise fees by Sh18,000. Former Education cabinet secretary Amina Mohamed in December warned school heads against charging illegal fees.

“Adding extra levies apart from what the government has stipulated amounts to corruption,” said Ms Mohamed. Barding High School principal Geoffrey Owori, where parents also claim to be paying extra unrecorded fees, denied the claims.

He claimed it could have been happening among the teachers without his knowledge. In Homa Bay, parents flooded shops to buy exercise books and other writing materials. They were, however, not buying textbooks.

Some bookshop owners attributed this to the timing. Being second term, most learners still have the books they bought at the beginning of the year.

“Textbooks are meant to be used for a whole year that is why just a few books are bought in April and August holidays,” said James Hamisi, a local bookshop owner.

Other traders who reaped big from the back-to-school rush were shoe sellers. Ms Stella Atieno said she increased her stock after schools closed last month.

“Apart from increasing my stock, I adjusted my selling price. I increased the price of every shoe by Sh100 because there is increased demand for footwear as schools reopen. This will give me an opportunity to add more shoes,” she said.

Meanwhile, in supermarkets, parents and students were shopping for various items to be used in school. Ms Mildred Akinyi said she did not spend a lot of money for shopping this term as compared to first term.

The parent with a Form One student at Ogande Girls High School in Homa Bay said most schools demand that students report to school with new items.

“During first term, parents have a hectic time shopping for uniforms and books. I used Sh20,000 for shopping minus fees. In second term, some the burden is reduced because items can be used throughout the year. This time I am using Sh2,500,” Ms Akinyi said.

In Kisii County, some principals want the school fees amount doubled, saying they are forced to cut down some programmes as the amount is insufficient. Parents at Nyabururu Girls High School are paying Sh53,554, an amount the school’s principal Joyce Orioki says is inadequate.

“We don’t charge extra because of the government policy but the amount is not enough to cater for all programmes,” she said. According to her, before the fees was harmonised, the school had set its own standards based on the previous amount that schools were charging.

“This being a national school, you can’t give students githeri (a meal of boiled maize and beans) throughout the week. We are forced to maintain the meals we used to give students when the fees were higher,” she added.

Mr Maurice Ogutu, the principal Kisii High School said that, although they were strictly following the fee guidelines, schools were struggling to make ends meet.

“We can’t manage to run such an institution on the current fees as we are forced to borrow to make up for the deficit,” he said.

Reporting by Lucy Mkanyika, Donna Atola, Caroline Mundu, Shaban Makokha, George Odiwuor and Benson Ayienda

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