High Court puts brakes on payment of school fees on e-Citizen

Justice Chacha Mwita

High Court Judge Chacha Mwita at the Milimani Law Court on January 26, 2024. The High Court has suspended the Ministry of Education's directive requiring payment of fees in public schools to be done through e-Citizen.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

The government has suffered a blow after the High Court on Wednesday suspended a directive requiring payment of fees and other levies for all public learning institutions to be made through the e-Citizen platform.

Justice Chacha Mwita suspended the circular issued by Education PS Belio Kipsang’ on January 31, requiring parents, guardians and students to pay fees and other levies through the platform.

The court suspended the circular after Nakuru-based surgeon Magare Gikenyi challenged the directive saying the decision was arrived at without public participation, and without respecting statutory and constitutional safeguards.

Dr Gikenyi says that bringing services closer is a good thing, but  the mandatory nature of its application without any input from the public is irrational and absurd.

“That an interim conservatory order is hereby issued suspending the Circular or letter by the Principal Secretary (Belio R Kipsang),” said the judge.

The order will remain in force until February 13, when the court will give further directions.

In a circular sent to the national school principals last week, Dr Kipsang directed principals of national schools to submit bank details of their institutions to enable parents to pay fees through the eCitizen platform.

Dr Gikenyi said forcing parents to pay their school fees through eCitizen without their public participation is absurd and irrational.

“For instance, there are parents who pay fees in kind (by providing maize or beans directly to the school in exchange for fees), the same will be locked out through this unfair administrative action,” he said.

President William Ruto has supported the move stating that the platform is unstoppable as it will help eliminate the payment of illegal levies by some schools.

“Cash payments are prone to abuse and we want to reduce and eventually end them,” President Ruto said in Tokyo, Japan, on Wednesday.

In the petition, Dr Gikenyi questioned how parents in rural setups who cannot get digital services make the payments.

He further said there is no legislation or framework or statutory guidelines on how the said funds are utilised and sent back to the end users.

Dr Gikenyi pointed out that the government also announced plans to have one account for both national and county government, a preposition which is against the constitution which envisages that both national and county government be distinct, though interdependent.

 “…that old era of all money being supplied from Nairobi is long gone,” he said.

The petitioner said the directive has also been sent to various semi-autonomous and autonomous agencies and institutions of higher learning like universities and colleges, affecting payment of school fees, student accommodation and kitchen, among other services.

Dr Gikenyi further said a Sh50 transaction fee imposed for every service is irrational.

“For example, an Egerton University student taking Lunch of “Ugali+sukuma wiki” costing Sh30 has to be forced to part with Sh50 as a transaction fee (Total 30+50=80) totalling Sh80. Which is an unacceptable and irrational administrative action, to say the least?” he said.

The government said the digital payments platform is integrated with all available electronic payment platforms in Kenya, including mobile telephone money payment services.

A nominal access fee of Sh50 per transaction or US$1 per transaction for foreign designated currency transactions, is charged unless waived by the CS Treasury.