As schools reopen from tomorrow, some parents are protesting the burden of paying extra levies charged by schools in blatant violation of the law.
Parents have struggled to pay fees for four terms in 2021, and 2022 will be no different as it will also have an extra term. The situation is worsened by the fact that many families are struggling financially due to a depressed economy that has seen people lose jobs and livelihoods due to effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Sunday Nation has established that some school principals have ignored directives from the Ministry of Education not to charge extra fees and instead collect the money using various devious methods to avoid detection. On average, the amounts for each extra charge range from Sh3,000 to Sh8,000.
Parents who spoke to the Sunday Nation said they feel that school managements have held them at ransom since they cannot withdraw their children from school and so have to pay the extra money. The most affected are those whose children are candidates for national examinations.
“As a parent, what is most important right now is for my son to prepare for his exams without disturbance,” said Mr Job Akatsa.
One commonly used method is what most schools, especially boarding schools, label “motivation fees”. Some institutions refer to the money as “remedial teaching fees” that is paid out to teachers who teach outside the official time in the evenings and also over the weekends. Other terms used include exam fees, curriculum development fees and tour fees.
Some schools have also not complied with instructions to lower fees after the ministry shortened the terms in the revised schools calendar. “I have paid all my daughter’s school fees without fail. I have no fees balance. However, the school has issued a fee demand note that indicates that I have a balance of Sh27,000. When we asked, we were told that it’s for a project but nothing is happening,” said Maggie, a parent who requested to be identified by only one name and whose daughter is in Form Two at a school in Embu County.
Another parent who has a son in Form Four at a school in Kisii County said that each candidate has been asked to pay Sh4,000 for a trip to a yet to be disclosed destination “as motivation before they sit their national examinations”.
The money will be paid through class teachers. This is done in order not to leave evidence that can be picked up by auditors. “The class has over six hundred students so that’s over Sh2.4 million in total,” he said.
The chair of the National Parents Association Nicholas Maiyo said they have noted a reduction in the number of complaints about illegal levies. “The problem is widespread but not as much as it used to be. It’s probably after the Teachers Service Commission wrote letters to show cause to some principals who were flouting the rules.”
A senior ministry official said that principals take advantage of gaps in law to breach the regulations. “The ministry can only issue circulars but principals remain employees of the TSC. The ministry can only recommend that they be disciplined by TSC and that’s the loophole many of them exploit,” he said.