Shame as chunk of tuition fees is used to buy uniform

Monday, June 13th, 2022 08:00 | By
High prices of school uniforms is keeping students from poor backgrounds away from school. PD/COURTESY

Parents and sponsorship agencies have accused school administrators of prioritising school uniforms over tution fees while allocating funds among  vote heads in the fees structure. 

 As a result, poor students are send home for lack of school fees, missing out on classes, yet the sponsorship cash is meant to keep them in school.

Investigations conducted through a cross section of players in the education sector by Scholar reveal schools have been allocating money meant for tuition to other items on the fees structure and ignoring tution, as a result jeopardising poor students’ education.  

They also raised concern over the silence by Ministry of Education officials  amid concerns raised by parents and sponsorship agencies against the increased school levies that keep students particularly from poor backgrounds out of class for long periods of time. 

Although public schools still stick to the school fees ceiling set by the policy on school fees guidelines, school boards of management (BoM) are quietly charging extra levies in the form of project funds, remedial teaching, photocopy/ and printing paper and school uniforms payments.

Extra charges

Scholar has also established that despite a declaration by Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha suspending all parents association (PA) funded projects in schools to cushion parents against post-Covid-19 economic hardships, most schools have imposed an annual project fund that ranges between Sh5,000 and Sh10,000.  “The minister had promised to abolish remedial funds arguing they fostered exam cheating, but it is alive in all top schools today. He also promised to go at principals charging extra levies, but he has remained silent despite all this things still happening, “ Millicent Chitechi, a parent in one boy’s school in Kakamega county regretted.

 Another parent at an extra-county school in Kakamega, Maurice Juma said although the minister had reduced the boarding fee charged from Sh40,535 to Sh35,000, there is no cost benefit as the school BoM was charging an extra Sh14,000 in the form of remedial teaching and project fund. “The school administration insists on the payment of the levies first so that any balance can credit the boarding fees account. This has kept most students from poor backgrounds on the road home every week in search of school fees,” she said.

 Kakamega county director of education Dickson Ogonyo said declined to give his comment on the number of schools in the county that had received approval from the ministry to charge extra fees for remedial teaching or school development projects.

 Kakamega county Kenya National Union of Teachers Kakamega South branch executive secretary Archedius Liyayi says the ministry laid clear guidelines for any increase in school levies through a circular, which he observes had been overlooked by the ministry officials and principals. 

“We should not be speaking of PA projects when the CS suspended it last year,” he said.

He went on, “In the otherwise, the guideline to charging parents for a project must follow procedures laid by the government that the proposal originates from PA, adopted in a general meeting of parents at the school and submitted to the County Education Board (CEB) for ratification and approval by the Education CS. We have not had school AGM since 2020, so where do the principals get the legal backing to charge parents for the projects?”

 Ministry of Education officials who spoke to Scholar in confidence revealed they were gagged from sharing any information with the media. “We do our audits and inspection of the schools...we are aware of what is happening and have filed our reports to our bosses. It’s upon them to act,” a source disclosed.

 A Canadian Harambee Education Society (CHES) that supports the education of bright needy students in Kakamega, Vihiga and Busia counties to access secondary education, says sudden midstream school fees increments was impeding their budgeting process. “Considering that we are donor funded, it’s difficult, especially when you are asked to pay more than the amount that was budgeted and communicated to the financiers,” Rebecca Odhiambo, the CHES programme officer reckons.

 She said donors had raised concern about the exorbitant school uniform fees charged by various schools. “As an organisation, we budget for basic uniform (two shirts, trousers/skirts, sleeping gown, pullover, shoes, game skit and socks), which would cost up to Sh7,000 but in some schools, the uniform has such detail as leg warmers, jumpers, blazers, tracksuits, gumboots, raincoats and the cost goes up to Sh20,000,” she explains.

Remedial levies

 “The cost of uniform alone (Sh20,000) is enough to pay first term boarding fees yet they would chop off the cost of uniform from school fees and send the student back home.

 She says the organisation has been forced to do a re-budget in the middle of the academic year in the last two years to finance the fees deficits created by extra levies. 

Interviews reveal that uniform, remedial levies remain the ultimate lunch box target for profiteers in the education sector.

 Our investigation revealed that in almost all public and private boarding schools, uniforms are seldom sold in private uniform outfitter shops, but school stores, where the cost is doubled or tripled and the premiums shared among the supplier and school head.

 Literary and communication scholar Prof Igara Kabaji admits cost of school uniforms was becoming prohibitive. “The Education Act is silent on uniforms. Can you be sent away from school for lack of uniform? “Uniform is a tradition borrowed from the British education system.  There is no law tying schooling to uniforms,” he says, adding that the cost of uniforms should be modest for affordability.  He also observes that since uniforms are paid for separately from the main school fees account.

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