Parents up in arms over Form One uniform cost
Thousands of Form One parents are up in arms after many of secondary schools imposed exorbitant charges for school uniform ahead of the May 3 reporting date.
The outraged parents have taken to social media platforms to register their disapproval of the move by the schools to charge as much as Sh30,000 for uniform.
In most cases, the schools either referred the parents to select uniform distributors from where they are required to source the uniform for the new secondary school entrants.
In other cases, the schools directed that the Form Ones would only buy the uniform at the school when they report.
Huruma Girls, an extra county secondary school in Nairobi, is referring Form One parents to a uniform outfitter known as Minazi Apparel based on Ngong Road with a branch in Donholm estate.
According to the circular to parents, the uniform will cost Sh25,000 which should be directly paid to the outfitters account. The amount is more than the first term school fees set by the Education ministry for national schools.
“Total amount payable for school uniform is Sh25,000. Payment should be done through bankers cheque…wearing school uniform is strictly compulsory and every article of clothing must be of the correct colour and school pattern labeled with student’s full name,” reads one of the letters.
Mary Hill Girls, a national school in Kiambu county, is charging Sh29,895 for uniform which should be bought at Chania School Depot.
Bishop Gatimu Ngandu Girls, a national school in Karatina, Nyeri County, is charging Sh18,985 for a set of uniform.
Upper Hill, an extra county school in Nairobi is charging Sh35,000 for school uniform and another Sh13,000 for beddings. The uniform is to bought at Weaver Bird, a school uniform outlet located on Nairobi’s River Road. The school demands that a parent pays the full amount for the uniform and beddings as a precondition for admission.
“This is pure extortion, this school is charging much more than national schools which are paying between Sh45,000 and Sh54,000. It is unacceptable yet we can do nothing because we cannot secure alternative schools,” protested a parent whose son has been admitted to the school.
But aware of the simmering protests, the Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (KSSHA) said the issue of school uniform will be discussed during the ongoing headteachers’ annual conference in Mombasa.
KSSHA chairperson Kahi Indimuli yesterday defended the controversial charges, saying that for years, certain schools have been getting their uniform from certain suppliers, duly following the laid down procurement guidelines.
“I want to believe we have procurement processes that have to be undertaken and if a school has followed those processes properly as required by the law and a supplier is identified, I want to believe they are right to say buy from this supplier because they succeeded before,” said Indimuli, who was part of a panel on a television morning talk show.
“There is a general feeling that this should not be done, to me I would say if a child has come with the correct shade we should allow the student,” he added.
He also explained that some principals have left the procedure open, where parents can buy from any shop so long as the colour is acceptable.
For others, he said, they ask suppliers to bring the uniform to school for students to pick it from there after winning the tender.
He said principals will discuss the uniform question in the ongoing KSSHA conference in Mombasa and give an advisory.
“There are laws that should be followed and we will continue asking our colleagues that whatever they do must be within the law. Expect some continuous advise from us because the law is there and if any one flouts them then they take responsibility,” said Indimuli.
He, however, called out suppliers who take advantage of the process to make sub-standard uniform.
“Definitely the issue of quality has been there. There are times when the supplier has not given a good quality of uniform as opposed to what it provided during the tendering process. By the time you realise that the quality is low, many pieces are already sold,” he said.
Indimuli said he did not support the practice of principals giving a long list of items that students must take to school.
“Where I may not agree is where they are asking for too many things, some of which may not be necessary and this is a conversation to take place on the sides of the conference,” he said.
“We will come up with ways because we are also parents and equally feel the pain. But we should not blow it out of proportion as if all schools are bent on making money out of this uniform thing because that has been the narrative,” he added.
National Parents Association chairman Nicholas Maiyo said forcing parents to buy uniform from schools or particular outlets is against the competition law.
“Any parent should be free to buy uniform from any outlet as long as it meets the prescribed school shade and design. The monopolistic arrangement on where to buy uniform has led to exorbitant cost of uniform and made education expensive,” said Maiyo.
Last year, the Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) said that parents should be free to buy school uniform from their preferred outlets as long as they meet the right specifications.
CAK warned principals against recommending shops which uniforms can be purchased in their admission letters and joining instructions without explicit benefits to the parents.
“It has come to the attention of CAK that some schools, public and private, are recommending outlets…school principals and administrators are hereby cautioned from engaging in this conduct as parents should be free to buy from their preferred shops as long as school uniform bought meets the colour, shade, thread count and design as prescribed by respective schools,” read a public notice CAK issued in January last year.
CAK notified school administrators, uniform outlets parents and the public that directing parents to specific places to buy uniform contravenes Competition Act and undermines the spirit and benefits of competition.
Section 21 (1) of the Competition Act states that agreements between undertakings, decisions by associations or concerted practices by undertakings which have as their object or effect the prevention, distortion or lessening of competition in trade in any goods or services in Kenya are prohibited.