Parents reeling from harsh economic times will feel the pain of paying school fees for the third time in seven months when the 2021 academic year begins after learners spend only nine days at home for the end-of-year holiday.
Schools started closing yesterday after which the learners will take a one-week break from the crash programme and resume on July 26 for the beginning of the academic year that should have started in January.
Parents paid school fees when schools opened for second term in January after a nine-month break and again in May for the third term.
They will still be expected to pay more in October when the second term begins, a departure from the three terms in a year they have been used to. Four school terms have been squeezed into 2021 and 2022 in a bid to recover the learning time lost during the long closure last year.
“We are feeling the pinch of the crash programme. We paid fees for third term only two months ago and many parents have lost their livelihoods to the pandemic,” said Mr Paul Njogu from Nairobi.
Shortened learning period
Usually, the school fees for the first term are higher than other terms. The Ministry of Education last month reduced the fees charged by boarding schools owing to the shortened period learners will spend at school. Whereas education in public primary schools is free, parents with children in private schools will feel the weight of the fees burden.
Parents with children in Category A secondary schools (national schools and extra-county schools located in the towns of Nairobi, Mombasa, Nairobi, Kisumu, Nyeri, Thika and Eldoret) will pay Sh45,000, down from Sh53,554. The fees for Category B schools (all other boarding schools, including extra-county not located in the towns named above) will be Sh35,000, down from Sh40,535.
Special needs secondary schools will charge Sh10,860, with the government paying Sh53,807 for each student. Previously, payment would pay Sh12,790.
Schools will receive capitation funds in four instalments of 25 per cent each for both the Free Primary Education and Free Day Secondary Education programmes. However, some school principals are opposed to the reduction of fees, claiming that schools owe suppliers millions of shillings in pending bills.
It is exactly one year since Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha declared that the 2020 academic year had been lost to the Covid-19 pandemic after various attempts to reopen schools flopped. The first term will take 10 weeks only while the full academic year will be covered in 30 weeks instead of the usual 39.
The new school term will be a welcome relief for more than two million Grade 4 learners and Standard 8 leavers who have been out of school since mid-March. They will be transitioning to Grade 5 and Form One respectively. Many of them have mainly been idle at home while other classes went on with learning.
There are fears that many Standard 8 leavers might not join Form One on August 2, having dropped out of school due to various factors. Many girls have become pregnant while others have been married off during the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to a report by the Presidential Policy and Strategy Unit, more than 328,000 girls have got pregnant since schools closed in March last year and more than 100,000 others have been married. Boys have also recorded high dropout rates to join informal labour as others have fallen into drug and substance abuse. About 400,000 learners dropped out of school and this number will likely increase when the Form One and Grade Five learners report back to school.
No long holiday
The long holiday that follows the end of an academic year will not happen this time around. There will be few, if any, families making travel plan to holiday destinations or upcountry due to the short break and financial constraints that many people currently face.
The second term (which will be the fourth for this year) will begin on October 11 and end just two days to Christmas Day, which is too late for travel, and too brief, as the learners will be expected back in class on January 3, 2022.
Businesses that cash in on back-to-school shopping to make huge sales will also not make as much money from items such as school uniforms as new ones might not be entirely necessary.
However, bookshops will be an exception and they expect booming business as parents buy books for their children as they join new classes. The sales will mostly be from learners in private schools because the government provides books for those in public schools. However, some parents still buy books to supplement those from the government.
“There is already a rise in book sales. Parents are flocking our outlets at lunchtime, in the evenings and over the weekends to buy books for their children,” Ms Joan Muse, sales manager for schools at Text Book Centre, Kijabe Street, told the Daily Nation. She said books for Grade Five are in high demand as it is the pioneer competency based curriculum class.