Parents bear heavy burden of school infrastructure projects fees
Besides the Covid-19 instigated economic meltdown, government-school fees cuts and a freeze on Parent Association (PA) project levies, public secondary schools are still building giant structures with resources from rather unclear sources.
The issue of ongoing multi-million Parent Associations (PA)-funded infrastructure projects is replete in almost all national and extra-county boarding schools in utter disregard to the June 21 government ban on PA project levies.
Projects, such as classrooms, dormitories, libraries, administration blocks, kitchens, dining and perimeter walls whose source of funding is questionable kept coming up in the past two years as the Ministry of Education looks on.
The freeze on levies was announced by immediate former education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha and was intended to ease the yoke of high school fees burden on parents’ still smarting from the Covid-19-stirred economic hardships.
Kakamega County Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) secretary general Achadius Liyayi, and a member of the county education board (CEB) says no school in the area had requested to raise fees over the past two years.
“There are laid down procedures that public secondary schools must follow in order to hike fees beyond the recommended government set ceiling. We’ve not approved any levies since June last year,” Liyayi, said the ban on extra levies was ignored.
CS has veto power
The Ministry of Education circular reference No. MOE HQS/3/13/3 of October 13, 2017 titled: ‘Guidelines for implementation of free day secondary education (FDSE)’ capped fees charged by public boarding secondary schools and allowed PAs and CEB to determine any extra levy payment sought by a school. The education CS has the veto power
A spot check by Scholar of schools in the western region revealed several ongoing development projects at various stages of completion, all of which were being financed by parents.
St Marys Mumias Girls in Kakamega County, for instance is putting up a Sh61 million high rise dormitory at the cost of parents.
Every parent will cough up an extra Sh10,000 for completion of Phase One of these dormitories whose occupation is scheduled at the onset of the 2023 academic year.
High enrolment rates
In Bungoma County’s Friends School Kamusinga, parents are funding a similar project whose estimated cost is Sh60 million. In Butere girls, each of the 2,000 students was slapped with Sh10,000 annual PA levy for construction of a perimeter wall.
At Kakamega school, the Board of Management (BoM) has added Sh5,000 on all students fees accounts in order to raise Sh12 million, earmarked as estimated cost of constructing a new library. The old library was turned into a dormitory as a result of high enrolment rates.
Chavakali High School in Vihiga County is expanding the living space for its residents and is quietly collecting Sh5,000 as project levy from each learner to see a hostel project through.
Parents at St Ignatius Mukumu High School are in similar quandary, to raise an additional Sh10,000 each on the Sh35,000 school fees for construction of a perimeter wall.
Asked about the source of funding for the dormitory project at St Mary’s girls whose capacity is 600 residents, principal Esther Amukwachi answered that it was the Ministry of Education through the infrastructure fund.
Yet Kakamega county director of education Dickson Ogonyo is unaware of such funding to St Mary girls. Amukwachi says the first phase of the project should be completed by January next year to accommodate the Form Ones.
Education director Kabora Mwangi claims some of the projects are funded from the Free Day Secondary Education (FDSE) funds. “The ministry directed the schools to wire Sh5,000 from each student FDSE account towards infrastructure. This has happened over two academic years,” he said.
Illegal additions to annual fees
He went on, “A school with a big population of over 2,000 students would easily raise those millions for project construction,” he said, apparently defending sources of funding for some ongoing projects in schools.
A parent at Butere Girls High School said Sh10,000 was illegally added to the annual boarding fee capped at Sh45,000 for the perimeter wall. Civil rights activist Anthony Mutevani says the levy fund is a connivance between the education officials and principals.
“Those magnificent structures shaping school’s skylines with no involvement of the Ministry of Education or the National Government Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF), it’s likely a breach of the levy ban-a scandal by extension if approval for the levy was not granted by government,” Mutevani said.
He claims school BoM members are not salaried by schools; are only entitled to sitting allowances hence school supply and infrastructure tenders, provide alternative avenues to make extra bucks.
Mutevani, a programme officer with a Canadian tertiary education scholarship organisation, said new multi-million infrastructure projects in schools are an expression of the government's inability to enforce its ban on PA levies.
A wider sample of secondary schools across the country, including Nairobi, Kiambu and Mombasa counties also found the same issue replicated as parents are asked to shoulder the burden of construction of various developments in schools.
School heads who spoke on condition of anonymity insisted that parents have no choice, but help fund infrastructure development to help cater for the high enrolment resulting from the government’s 100 per cent transition policy.
“We ae weighed down by the overwhelming admission to Form One students and the capital released by the Ministry of Education is not enough and disbursement is often delayed, frustrating the smooth running of schools,” said a principal in Kiambu County.
He said, it has become challenging to manage schools, and hence the need to urge parents to pay the levies.