Schools reopen as parents decry high financial strain

Students

Students boarding a matatu at Accra road in Nairobi after schools reopened. 

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

 Schools will be reopening tomorrow for Third Term, which also marks the end of a compressed academic calendar that started after the Covid-19 pandemic.

The schools are reopening amid outcry from parents over high fees, which they have had to pay in the last two years to complete a three-year academic calendar.

This year, schools had four terms, that lasted 10 weeks each. In between, there has been a week's holiday.  

Parents who spoke to the Sunday Nation yesterday said the two years have been financially straining, with a majority taking loans to keep their children in school.

“Schools break for only one week and children are supposed to resume with fees and academic materials, which has been very straining,” said Mr John Mbae, a parent in Nairobi.

Parents whose children are in private primary schools and those in boarding secondary schools bore the highest burden as they worked to ensure that they clear fees every term.

Those in public primary and day secondary schools had their tuition fees paid by the government under the free primary and free secondary education programme.

For public secondary schools, the government pays a flat rate of Sh22,244 as tuition fees. Parents are required to pay boarding fees for their children.

Despite caution to head teachers and principals by the education cabinet secretary George Magoha not to send learners home for fees, some schools have defied the order.

Through the Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (Kessha), principals have begun asking the government to release capitation funds for the third term.

They said schools have run under tight budgets and have had to incur huge debts due to delayed disbursement of cash.

“So far, the free secondary education funds have not been released. We expected them to be released by Friday ahead of reopening tomorrow, but that has not been done,” said a principal in Kiambu County who did not want to be named. Kessha officials refused to speak on the record on the matter, citing the need for engagement with the new administration first.

In the third term, the Kenya examination council (Knec) is preparing to administer three exams for Grade Six, the pioneer class for the Competence Based Curriculum (CBC), Standard Eight and Form Four.

The KCPE, KCSE and Kenya Primary School Education Assessment (KPSEA) will be done in November.

This year, Knec had to deliver two sets of examinations, in April and November under the crash school calendar.

In the revised 2020 school calendar issued by Prof Magoha, teachers were asked to embrace the new calendar and ensure they cover the syllabus on time.

The Ministry of Education crashed 2020, 2021 and 2022 school calendars for about six months each allowing the calendar to resume its traditional January to December time frame from January 2023.

The decision to compress the school calendar was advised by an Education Taskforce Committee on Covid 19.

In their discussions which were detailed in their report, the stakeholders felt that if the calendar is not crashed, many learners will outgrow their school-going years.

In the squeezed curriculum, Prof Magoha issued an 11-week school calendar allowing a phased reopening for learners.

Before the pandemic, the first and second terms were going for 14 weeks while the third term, 10 weeks, allowing Standard Eight and Form Four candidates to sit for their examinations in October and November respectively.

The learners were also allowed to go for half terms mid-February and mid-June during the first and second terms.

The ministry does not allow learners to go on a break during third term.

This term, the government will set up a CBC task force to collect views that will guide the continued rollout of the CBC and guide the implementation of junior secondary school.

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