Parents grapple with high cost of educating children

As Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi releases Standard Eight national examination results on Monday, parents will probably be more apprehensive than the candidates.

A bad performance in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination will mean that an investment worth thousands of shillings has gone down the drain.

Even with the introduction of free primary education in public schools a decade ago, parents still have to contend with miscellaneous costs such as evening tuition, extra course books and revision books and a camouflaged KCPE levy to cater for the cost of feeding the examination invigilators. The Kenya National Association of Parents Secretary-General Musau Ndunda says the cost of preparing children is high — and continues to rise every year.

“Some schools charge candidates an extra Sh5,000-Sh10,000 every term to cater for extra evening tuition for candidates. Parents with children in schools that do not offer evening tuition sometimes prefer to hire private tutors for their children to ensure they pass the examination,” Mr Ndunda said.


Mr Nathan Barasa of the Kenya Parents/Teachers Association says that the current system is unsustainable and that the government needs to do more to lift the financial burden of education from the shoulders of poor parents who cannot afford it.

“We have a situation where a parent is spending over Sh30,000 just to put a child through Standard Eight, excluding school fees. Most of this money goes into buying books and paying for remedial tuition for the child, as well as catering for lunch and transport,” he says. He explains that parents who are unable to afford the extraneous costs often end up with children who do not perform well enough to be offered a place in a good secondary school.

“The reason most parents spend so much on revision books and tuition is that they feel their children are not getting enough attention from the teachers in class. This is mostly because the teacher-student ratio is very high. On average, one teacher is in charge of between 80 and 90 pupils,” he said. He recommends that the government hire more teachers to bring the ratio down to a more reasonable 1:45 to allow for one-on-one attention which may eliminate the need for extra tuition.


A parent who spoke to the Sunday Nation on condition of anonymity said he has had to pay an extra Sh2,000 every term for remedial tuition for his child.

“The government
might have banned holiday tuition but that does not mean it is not still happening in some private schools. Mostly, it is held in churches or even in parents’ or teachers’ homes,” he said.

His biggest headache, however, was the cost of textbooks for his child who was a candidate in this year’s KCPE examination.

“Aside from the usual course book for each of the six subjects, I had to buy three revision books for each subject, each at an average cost of Sh500. It is a big burden,” he said.

But the Kenya Publishers Association defends the price of its books, saying that the exorbitant cost is as a result of Valued Added Tax slapped on books since 2013.

“We would like nothing better than to lower the cost of books because we understand the parents’ burden but VAT has pushed the cost of publishing up so we are forced to adjust our prices accordingly,” says Mr Lawrence Njagi, the association’s chairman.

He said the most expensive books in the education system are those that are used for preparing both Class Eight and Form Four candidates for the national examinations.

Unfortunately for parents, an expensive primary education begets an even more expensive secondary education. The cost of admission to most secondary schools is becoming increasingly prohibitive, forcing some to enrol their children in local day schools. Sunday Nation - December 28, 2014

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