Tricks schools in Kenya use to rip off parents

Head teachers colluding with school uniform outlets to rip off parents

Parents from different parts of the country are outraged by new methods employed by heads of public primary and secondary schools to fleece them.

At Moi Primary School in Thika town, which is a public school, learning was paralysed when parents held a peaceful demonstration to protest against extra charges they termed illegal.

They showed fee structures where the school had introduced a fee of Sh45,000 for new parents. According to the structure, new parents are required to pay Sh24,000 admission fee, Sh10,000 building fund, Sh3,500 fees, Sh2,300 for computer and Sh4,490 for feeding.

The Education Cabinet Secretary had warned action would be taken against school heads flouting fees guidelines issued by the ministry.

The angry parents also took issue with Sh4,000 contribution per parent to construct a toilet and Sh500 annual subscription fee.

The school, which is one the best performing in the area, was forced to deploy armed police to prevent angry parents from accessing its premises.

Led by James Maina, one of the parents' representatives in the school management, the parents accused the school administration of turning the learning institution in to a cash cow.

School managers

"Since the school is much sought-after by parents due to its excellent performance, the school managers have taken advantage to extort from parents desperate to ensure their children are enrolled," said a parent.

Another parent, George Kinya, alleged their spirited efforts to have the school's audited accounts for the past few years had borne no fruit.

The parents wondered why they were being charged the money yet the school was a public one funded by government through the Free Primary Education fund.

But the chairman of the school's Board of Management Njoroge Kugwa said the parents had ratified the charges during their previous regular meetings.

"The school has been running like this for the past 25 years," said Kugwa.

Gatanga sub-county education officer James Koigi termed the money being levied on parents as illegal and unacceptable.

Charges suspended

"In the meantime, all those charges remains suspended. The school feeding programme has also been stopped until further notice and the school should also refund all the illegal monies they had collected," said Mr Koigi.

The head teacher of the school, Mr William Kamau, declined to speak to the media.

The story is the same in Eldoret where parents have expressed concern over the huge burden that awaits them as Form One selection process concludes.

Their concern is mainly pegged on outrageous purchase of mattresses, buckets, slashers, pangas, hockey sticks, among other items, based on the schools' reporting checklist.

Students joining St Peter's Boys Kandara said they were supposed to present two bankers cheques for Sh11,000 in favour of two suppliers who were supposed to give then bedding and uniform.

"On reporting day, I am supposed to give a cheque of Sh4,500 in favour of the supplier to the school so that my son can be issued with a sweater, two shorts, and trousers. The other supplier will get another cheque of Sh6,500 so that my son is issued with a mattress, bedsheet and a bucket," said the concerned parent .

Parents have also raised concern over some schools rejecting second-hand textbooks and ordering them to buy new ones from select book shops.

A second-hand textbook vendor in the town, Mr Mike Njenga, said the move had drastically reduced the number of customers who normally flock his shop during opening days.

"Most schools are currently giving specifications on new textbooks and rejecting the second-hand books, which are way cheaper than buying a new book. Only a few schools are currently accepting second-hand textbooks," Njenga said.

Another parent whose daughter is to join Nginda Girls in the same county produced an admission letter with specific demands.

"The school
uniform can be obtained from Gloliza General Supplies at a cost of Sh10,240 and be deposited to Gloliza General Supplies, Account number..... The bank slips are to be presented on the day of admission."

An outraged parent in Nairobi said "the prices in these shops are ridiculous yet we are stuck with them. A jumper for Sh2,900, pair of socks for Sh300 yet you are asked to buy six pairs, tracksuit for Sh4,750... and all these are from China!"

Ann Kibet from Elgeyo Marakwet, whose child and been given a slot at a secondary school in Narok, also feared that she will be forced to set additional funds aside besides what is indicated in the fees structure.

Samson Kiplagat, another parent, said there is need for Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi to intervene by ensuring that policies are in place to cushion them from rogue school management boards who charge exorbitant fees.

Luka Maina, a resident of Uasin Gishu, also called for an audit in most schools to ascertain if such equipment which parents are compelled to buy is of any value to the students.

He said most schools go to an extent of making such demands as a qualification for them to retain their slots.

"I know of many who have lost their slots for failing to provide the required equipment and kits. The ministry should also provide a circular on the same so that parents cannot be oppressed," he added.

Among those who want Matiang'i to intervene in the matter are Nakuru Town East MP David Gikaria who has called on the Education CS to take stern measures against school heads charging high fees.

"The Ministry of Education should monitor closely what schools are charging and take action against school heads who raise fees," said Gikaria.

In Nakuru, parents of school-going children have raised concern over schools' alleged 'collusion' with uniform shops to hike the prices.

Some parents said they had received notes from schools directing them which shops to buy the uniform for their children.

"The suspicious thing is that some schools order for uniform from a certain shop and because of the recent hikes, we resort to buying from other outlets but the schools do not accept that," Mr Joseph Tuwei, a parent, said.

According to Mr Tuwei, most schools specify certain shops and caution the parents against buying elsewhere "since they do not meet the specifications'.

He, however, noted that most uniforms were not available in the shops during the holidays.

"It is not fair since you can find some shops selling the same uniform at a fair price but the schools sometimes raises issues, citing quality and professionalism," John Maina, a parent said.

Murang'a Woman Representative Sabina Chege has also called on the ministry to crack the whip on public schools flouting the ministerial directive on school fees.

She said there were institutions that have intimidated parents to pay amounts above the government fee structure on grounds of a 'general consensus' .

Ministry of Education fees guideline for public secondary schools stands at Sh9,374 while for boarding schools it is capped at Sh53,553.

In Kisumu, the enrollment of Standard One pupils was cancelled in six schools where guardians were being forced to pay illegal admission fees while.

The Standard - Thursday 5th 2017

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