How Crash Program Has Become A Burden With A Surge In The Cost Of Living.
The move by the Ministry of Education to cut three academic years into two calendar years is straining the incomes of parents who face the daunting task of paying extra tuition every year, even as they grapple with an increase in the cost of living.
Annual inflation accelerated to 7.9% in June, from 7.1% the month before, to reach the highest level since the 2017 election.
Plarents with children going to school now have to contend with the high cost of living and look for means of earning enough money to pay for their tuition and related school bills, such as buying supplies and pay for the transportation costs.
For the past 30 days, parents were required been required to cancel tuition fees for the first tern in order for their children to take their end exams. Parents with students in boarding school then went to pick them up. This week, when children return to school, parents must shop for essentials and pay taxes for a new term, which will be cut short by the election next month.
According to the arents who spoke to our media team the financial pain has been exacerbated by a rise in the prices of school items.
He further noted that the cost of some supplies has nearly doubled due to a global increase in the cost of materials such as paper, plastics and clothing materials.
Michael Opiyo, a parent with a child at Ambira High School, said less than 10 days ago he was in school to clear last term’s arrears, but is now saddled with a new bill for the term starting today.
“The academic calendar this year is really busy and tiring; we don’t even have time to look for money, “Opiyo said.
Since schools resumed in October, Kenyan parents pay school fees four times a year due to the crash program in the academic calendar.
Traditionally, an academic year had three terms.
The biggest challenge comes when some school require parents to clear all the fees at the beginning of the term.
” My son will only be readmitted to school once I paid the full tuition fees estimated at Sh15,500″, a parent added.
Although education is free in public primary schools, many parents still enroll their children in private institutions that have a lower teacher-to-student ratio.
Whereas the government provides free textbooks in public schools, parents are asked to buy reference materials such as dictionaries, maps, Bibles, Qurans, geometrical sets, mathematics formulae booklets and English and Kiswahili story books for leisure reading or to boost their vocabulary and communication skills.
With the average income of a middle level employee lying between Sh25,000 and Sh30,000 a month, meeting education requirements has become a major challenge with the academic crash program calendar.
On the other hand teachers and school heads are not left behind.
Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (KSSHA) chairman Indimuli Kahi recently warned that the cost of running schools had risen drastically and the fees paid by parents — even with capitation by the government — were not enough to sustain students in school.
School heads now want the government to either review capitation to Sh30,000 for each student or let parents bear the burden of higher school fees. If the government allows schools to charge fees beyond the figures stipulated by the Education Ministry, this will deal a further blow to parents’ incomes.
“The money is very little compared to the work it is supposed to do,” Kahi has said on several occasions.
He also previously said schools are underfunded yet they need money given the strained academic schedule currently being implemented.
He has also challenged parents to honour their obligation of paying fees on time. According to him, it is critical for the government to continue encouraging parents to pay school fees despite the harsh economic times.
“We, as teachers, are also parents and we know that Covid-19 has interfered with financial flows but the schools must run. It is pointless sending children to school then you do not pay fees and you expect the school to run normally,” he said.
The Ministry of Education has been categorical that public secondary schools should not charge illegal levies.
Last year, the ministry said it had been receiving complaints from parents about schools charging unauthorised fees.
“The Ministry issued new guidelines on fees payable by parents. However, it has been reported that some schools continue to charge fees outside the guidelines leading to dissatisfaction from the parents and guardians,” said the Ministry.
To ease the burden from parents, Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Secretary-General Collins Oyuu said that more focus should be put on increasing government capacitation rather than raising fees.
He also challenged principals to give the government proper data for planning as well as for calculation of capitation as this will reduce the burden of fees on parents.
“Let the school heads not target the parents, the way they are squeezed is the same way parents are facing hard times,” said Oyuu told People Daily on phone.