School heads defy ministry directive, charge illegal fees

Tuesday, January 7th, 2020 11:21 | By
Grade One pupils play at Temple Road Primary School in Nyeri town after schools were re-opened for first term yesterday. Photo/PD/JOSEPH KING’ORI

The adage that old habits die hard seems to hold true for some schools heads, who have disregarded the government’s fees guidelines and are now demanding extra money from parents.

Yesterday, the parents lobby, National Parents Association (NPA), protested the extra charges, saying it was compiling a list of rogue heads and their institutions to present to Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha for action.

“We shall compile all the complaints which we have been getting from parents across the country and we will write a memorandum to the Ministry of Education for action because whatever is happening is illegal,” lobby chair Nicholas Maiyo told the People Daily.

He said though the vice was widespread both in primary and secondary schools during the admission of new learners, the most affected parents are those with students joining Form One, with some being asked to cough as much as Sh150,000 to secure slots in public schools.

The illegal and dubious charges that are in direct contravention of the Magoha directive on school fees are being piled on desperate parents for infrastructure development, including alleged expansion of dormitories and classrooms.

For others, especially the day scholars, a lunch levy to be determined through negotiations between the parents and teachers is being imposed.

Other charges are for transport and learning materials such as the Bible, atlases, dictionaries and hymn books.

In some instances, the parents are being asked to pay as high as Sh30,000 for uniforms instead of the stipulated Sh10,000. 

Last week, Magoha warned school boards of management against increasing fees, saying the government had set out guidelines that everyone must observe.

 “I still hear some people say that the CS has increased school fees and I ask myself, where has this come from? If we find somebody in his own wisdom sending a child home, for example because they have not paid lunch money, then we will come down on you like a tonne of bricks,” he warned.

Get kickbacks

According to the government’s fees structure for National and Extra-County schools in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Kisumu, Nyeri and Eldoret, the annual school fees is Sh75,798 with parents required to pay Sh53,554 and the government Sh22,244.

For County schools under category B, which include all other boarding schools and extra county schools outside Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Kisumu, Nyeri and Eldoret, the fee is Sh62,779 where parents pay Sh40,535 and government Sh22,224.

But despite the government’s warning, some principals especially those in county and national schools have ignored the directive as they were charging more than Sh80,000, more than Sh25,000 above what parents should pay.

The parents’ lobby vice chair Sarah Kithinji said the exaggeration of uniform fees is because of the “evil collusion” between teachers and unscrupulous uniform dealers. She said parents should not pay beyond Sh10,000 for the uniforms.

“Parents who are being exploited are those with students joining Form One and Form Three where teachers give directives that new uniforms should be purchased through an arrangement organised by the school management. The principals usually get kickbacks,” said the official who is also a pastor.

Contacted, Kenya Secondary School Heads Association chairman Kahi Indimuli said they do not condone any illegal charges by some head teachers and urged parents to report any such cases to the ministry for action.

“We, however,think that the ministry should review the school fees structure to factor issues such as inflation,” he said. 

Remedial and motivational levies

An aggrieved parent, who identified himself only as George from Nyamira county, showed the People Daily a text message asking him to pay Sh3,000 and Sh2,000 for remedial and motivation respectively at a national school. He, however, declined to name the school fearing his child may be victimised.

In Migori county, the local parents association chair William Onyango said he was aware of school heads who give genuine fee structures to parents on the first day of their children’s admission, but later levy extra fees through illegal and dubious documents. 

“You will be shown on the first day of reporting a genuine one-year fee structure of not more than Sh76,000 for national schools and not more than Sh63,000 for extra- county schools.

But as the year progresses towards the end, parents will end up paying up to Sh100,000 or more in some schools because of inclusion of illegal supplementary levies into the official fee structure,” he said.

In Nakuru, parents were struggling to come to terms with a host of charges introduced by school administrators, which they had to meet before their children are admitted for the first term. 

A spot check revealed some institutions had set several levies besides the normal fees.  

Parents, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of their children being victimised, said they had no option but to pay to secure slots. They appealed to the ministry to intervene. 

In Busia, county director of education Thaddeus Owuor asked parents who will be charged any extra levy to report concerned principals to his office or to the County Teachers Service Commission (TSC) director.

“Parents should make official written complaints against concerned principals to respective offices so that disciplinary action can be meted against them,” he said, adding that he had alerted his officers to monitor secondary school heads who might be tempted to violate the directive on fees. 

In Mombasa, Farhiya Mohamed, a parent at Mama Ngina Girls High School, a national school, said the institution had respected the ministry’s annual fee of Sh75,798. - Reporting by Eric Wainaina, Henry Andanje, Roy Lumbe, Harrison Kivisu, Robert Ochoro and KNA

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