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Parents in Nakuru decry illegal levies by Principals

Education CS Machogu has already warned school principals against illegal fee increments

A section of school heads in Nakuru have been accused of devising ways of circumventing government guidelines on school fees to introduce extra charges under informal vote heads.

Even as the Ministry of Education warned school heads against charging extra levies, scores of learners from the devolved unit were yet to report to join due lack of fees and other requisite learning materials.

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Some of the affected Parents and guardians interviewed complained that lack of school fees and demand for other hidden charges have locked their children out of school, as the government maintains that it remains committed to achieving the 100 percent transition into secondary education.

In some schools, parents are still required to pay extra charges, some totaling Sh10, 000, in violation of fee guidelines provided by the Education Ministry.

Last Month, Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu assured parents with children in secondary schools that they will not be subjected to extra levies and warned principals not to levy any illegal charges against the recommended fees.

Mr Machogu stated that the boarding fees charged in public secondary schools will remain unchanged in 2024 and indicated that Schools will continue to receive funds based on accurate enrollment data submitted by principals through the National Education Management Information System (NEMIS).

He said school heads must stick to the Ministry of Education-approved fee structures to ease the burden on parents who are reeling from the effects of hard economic times.

“Parents are having challenges now and we don’t want to subject them to more suffering. The government provides Sh22, 450 for tuition and boarding schools will only charge something small for students’ upkeep,” he added.

A parent whose child was set to join form one said the fee is capped at Sh42,654. He complained of extra levies supposedly for the construction of a dormitory and motivation of teachers.

To avoid documentation that may attract sanctions, the parent alleged that the school avoided listing the disputed items on formal fee structures and instead, the new charges are communicated verbally but payment is mandatory.

Peter Tena is one such troubled guardian. His niece has been admitted to an Extra-County school, which has brought the family joy. But the joy has been damped by the exorbitant levies.

Apart from paying the normal stipulated Sh 53,554, Mr Tena is paying extra charges to cater for infrastructure, boost teachers’ morale and support other projects in school.

He said most of the extra levies are undocumented and are announced in school during parents’ general meeting, while a few others are attached to fees structures.

“Most of the extra levies charged are said to support infrastructure projects, motivate teachers even when they earn a salary,” Mr Tena.

Mr Tena said he also knew of a parent with a daughter in Form 3 in the said school who was required to part with Sh1,200 per term for remedial teaching and motivation of teachers and a further Sh1,600 per year for a truck suit which was compulsory for all students.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission has also warned school heads to stop charging irregular levies. The warning to school principals reinforces earlier warnings by both the Teachers Service Commission and the Ministry of Education.

Reverend Harrison Mwangi whose grandson is a student at a County Secondary School indicated that some school heads have dared to send learners away from school to get the illegal levies.

Reverend Mwangi called on the Cabinet Secretary to crack the whip on the ‘rogue’ school heads.

He claimed that each student at his grandson’s school was asked to pay Shs 18,000 spread over three terms towards purchasing a school bus adding that only a few parents dared raise concerns not only over the legality and rationality of such charges but also the sound management of the funds.

Demanding accountable management of these extra levies is challenging since the government rarely audits these monies. This, he stated, creates an opportunity for misappropriation of the money.

Reverend Mwangi observed that unlike the Board of Management (BOM), whose work is guided by the law, this is not the case for Parents’ Association (PA).

He expressed regret that this loophole is often exploited by school heads who argue that such extra levies are a product of PA meetings. Hence, there is a need to provide guidelines on how PAs conduct their business to avoid arbitrary decisions.

Ms Wanjiru Mburu said some schools in Nakuru were charging unauthorized levies imposed by head teachers, especially admission fees, purchase of desks and lunch money in complete contravention of government practices and directives.

“Parents pay tax and their children have a right to get an education. School heads should understand the hard economic situation that Kenyans are facing especially those from poor backgrounds,” said Ms Mburu.

She stated that President William Ruto has given clear instructions that teachers should not ask for additional charges from parents, and that the instructions should be followed to the latter.

Where schools genuinely require extra funds, Ms Mburu pointed out that modalities have been laid down for doing so and must be religiously followed as a sign of good faith.

Mr Machogu has insisted that the government will release Sh15,000 as capital for every Grade 7 pupil.

The government will spend Sh9.6 billion to finance Junior Secondary School learners to be in school this year in the form of fees. Each Form One learner will receive slightly more than Sh22,244 as capitation per academic year.

However, there have been concerns from parents that head teachers could take advantage of Grade 7 admissions to levy unapproved fees.

Machogu had said that no child should pay any fees over and above the capitation money, asking parents to only buy uniforms for their children. The Grade 7 learners are expected to have different uniforms although they will be domiciled in primary schools.

“We have left that matter of determining the uniforms to the School Boards of Management,” Machogu said.

Junior Secondary School pupils are expected to report to school on February 30 while Form one students had between February 6 and 13.

Dennis Rasto
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