Schools facing prospects of Term One with empty coffers

Customers do last-minute school shopping at Veghela Bookshop in Kakamega town

Customers do last-minute school shopping at Veghela Bookshop in Kakamega town on Sunday ahead of the reopening of schools for the first term on Monday, January 8.

Photo credit: Isaac wale | Nation

Schools are reopening today after a two-month break but without money in their accounts in what spells doom for learning in public institutions.

The situation has compelled heads of boarding public secondary schools to pass on the costs to parents through school fee increments. Some have increased the school fees by Sh10,000 while others by Sh40,000.

For instance, parents of an old, giant national school in Kiambu will be forced to pay Sh113,150 per year instead of Sh54,000 as stipulated in the Ministry of Education’s school fees structure.

“Do you want the children to sleep hungry? How do I feed more than 1,000 students? We are struggling, we are constrained, and we do not have funds to run these schools,” said a principal of a national school in the neighbourhood.

Thousands of early childhood development and education (ECDE), primary, and junior school learners will begin their first term under the comprehensive schools system today as the 2024 academic calendar starts.

This comes as the State begins implementing proposals by the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms (PWPER) that proposed repealing the ECDE Act to bring early childhood education under the Basic Education Act.

Murang'a High School Principal Willy Kuria, who is acting as the Kenya Secondary Schools Headteachers Association (Kessha) chairman following the exit of Mr Kahi Indimuli, said that, by Saturday, the funds had not reached schools. “We will confirm by Monday [today] whether schools will have received the funds but by Saturday our accounts were empty,” he said.

Mr Kuria refuted reports by parents that they have increased secondary school fees. "Principals have no capacity to increase school fees, what happens is that the secondary school boards of management, parents and other stakeholders meet and agree on certain projects to undertake. You cannot, therefore, accuse principals of increasing school fees," he said.

He urged the State to ensure adequate funding of schools.

"We would like the state to ensure schools receive Sh22,224 capitation. We are grappling with high cost of commodities yet school fees have remained constant. Fee structures for different categories of schools were reviewed a long time ago yet prices of commodities have increased. This makes it impossible to manage schools," he said.

Other principals who spoke to Nation on condition of anonymity said the funds are yet to reach their accounts. This was the same in primary schools, where headteachers confirmed they are yet to receive the capitation funds.

“We expect the funds will be in because we have been assured. But I have not received reports from banks,” said Kenya Primary Schools Head Teachers Association National Chairman Johnson Nzioka. This contradicted a statement made by Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu, who insisted that the funds have already been disbursed.

“Primary schools have received Sh4.74 billion, while junior schools and secondary schools were given Sh31 billion in total. So school heads cannot complain that there are no funds because money is in their accounts,” said the CS.

In an interview with Nation, Mr Machogu further warned secondary school heads against increasing fees. This was echoed by National Parents Association chairperson Silas Obuhatsa, who vowed not to keep mum as principals overcharge parents.

“The Ministry of Education has set the fees structure for all categories of school; I don’t see why there should be an increment. But, in case we find a principal going against the set school fees structure, we will sue them,” he said. With the capitation that the government is giving plus the mandated maximum charge of Sh53,000 for national schools, and Sh45,000 for county schools, Mr Machogu said, the money was enough to take the learning institutions through the year.

He also urged learners to be diligent, disciplined and work hard.

“You have had enough rest, and festivities so it’s now time to go back to school and take your studies seriously. Above all, in every school we are encouraging all learners to maintain discipline. If you are not of good character or discipline regardless of whatever grade you get you can’t fit in society,” he added.

The PWPER report has proposed basic education to begin at pre-primary and end at senior school, combining ECDE centres, primary and junior schools under the comprehensive schools system. Primary school heads will now run ECDE centres in spite of protests by the Council of Governors (CoG).

CoG chairperson Anne Waiguru has insisted that ECDEs, which have been under county governments since the dawn of devolution, are a preserve of the devolved units and no law has been made to change the status quo.

However, education stakeholders led by the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) have rejected the CoG position.

A Knut official, Mr Dan Aloo, said comprehensive schools will boost education standards and ensure equity, equality and fair distribution of resources.

“We are happy that the PWPER proposed the creation of comprehensive schools. It is the best thing that has happened in the education sector. It will save parents the agony of paying school fees because it is now under the Basic Education Act, which states that education is free and compulsory,” said Mr Aloo.

ECDE teachers, he noted, will now be under TSC.

“Governors are being misled. In some places like Turkana and Mandera, there are no teachers but TSC will make a fair distribution of ECDE tutors. There must be harmony, consultation and dialogue over the running of schools,” he added.

He said placing ECDEs under headteachers which will ensure 100 per cent transition throughout the different stages.

“It will be free and compulsory. It will unburden parents from paying school fees. Comprehensive schools will ensure equality. Learners will be retained in schools,” he added.

Additional reporting by Wanderi Kamau