A teacher issues uniforms to Form One students at Muruguru Girls High School in Nyeri. Nation

Some school principals, particularly those in charge of national and extra-county boarding schools, have transformed the establishments into money-making enterprises, taking advantage of parents by charging extortionate charges for things like uniforms.

Regardless of the government forbidding the selling of attire in schools, parents said they were left at the disposal of the officials who are abusing them.

They now seek the government's intervention against the heads, who are also enforcing additional fees and other covert fees in violation of the rules set out by the Ministry of Education.

Moses Kuria, the secretary of the Trade Cabinet, said on January 24 that parents are free to purchase school supplies from their favorite retailers. According to sources, certain boarding school heads still encourage parents to purchase things from particular vendors where they get a commission.

For commodities like books, clothing, and beds that are purchased from the institutions, the administrators of numerous boarding schools are demanding Sh22,600.

For instance, Dr. Aggrey High School in Taita-Taveta charges Sh700 for a scarf and tie that go for around Sh400 at the Mombasa Uniform Centre. A track suit with the school's logo costs Sh2,200; however, it can be purchased for Sh1,500 outside of the building.

One new student's letter to the school said, "The following items will be easily available in school and can be bought at the suggested prices: white or black rubber shoes for Sh900, a school magazine for Sh1,000, branding of all items with an admission number for Sh250, a high-density mattress and a bucket for Sh3,000, a games t-shirt and shorts for Sh1,200, a house t-shirt for Sh700, and a jumper for Sh2,800."

Arithmetical equipment

In order to maintain consistency, Dr. Aggrey High School will provide students with a scientific calculator (FX-82EX), a geometrical set (Nataraj), a Knec four-figure mathematical table (7th edition), and two spring files. To get the products for their kids from the school, all parents must pay a total of Sh3,300, according to the letter.

A parent who works as a designer said that school uniforms are advantageous to principals.

The parent replied, "I've done the math; if I had purchased from a bookstore and uniform center, I would have saved almost Sh8,000, which is how much the principals are pocketing per kid."

Under the leadership of Silas Obuhatsa, chair of the National Parents Association, education stakeholders requested that the administration regulate the administrators.

"We don't anticipate school administrators charging parents any fees outside of the parameters established by the Ministry of Education." 

You cannot force parents to purchase uniforms from schools in regards to attire. Let parents shop where they want to shop," Mr. Obuhatsa remarked.

The head of the Kenya Secondary School Heads Association, Kahi Indimuli, was not able to explain.

One parent from one of the top-performing schools said he was surprised when he had to pay close to Sh50,000 for things on the first day of school, even though they weren't in the admission letter.

Local schools were still pressuring parents in the area to buy uniforms from the schools.

A mother who sent her child to Meru School claimed to have spent Sh22,600 on the outfit.

"Among other necessities, the Sh22,600 covered a sweater, two pairs of pants, a blanket, a bed cover, and a mattress." The parent stated, "I wonder what's going on since the government said that it had banned administrators from requiring us to buy uniforms from the school, but things on the ground are the opposite."

A parent at Kakamega High School described how she had to spend more than Sh22,000 for uniforms, a mattress, and other school supplies.

The parent said, "The calling letter specifically says the price we are expected to pay for the uniforms, and we have paid."

Some schools, meanwhile, adhered to the ministry's rules.

The administrators' decision to let parents purchase the necessary materials outside of the schools was welcomed by parents whose children received admission letters to St. Teresa Mbooni Girls High School. 

A parent said, "We have not been compelled to purchase uniforms from the schools."

Parents applauded the administrator of Mama Ngina Girls High School for not making them buy the school's clothes.

"It enhances my peace of mind. I don't sell uniforms; this is a place of learning, not commerce." Chief Principal Mwanamisi Omar said, "I encourage parents to shop wherever they wish."

A dad who sent his daughter to the school, Gharib Ombati, asked other administrators to follow Ms. Omar's example.

"Parents have challenges; the principal should show compassion." 

"The cost of shopping is rather higher than the expense of attending school. To ease parents who will use the money for shopping, the government should subsidize Form 1 expenses. Parents may haggle while purchasing uniforms outside of schools, as opposed to at schools where everything is all-inclusive and uniform, "according to Mr. Ombati.

Monica Mutua, the owner of Mombasa Uniform Centre, and other store owners said that the new uniform stores set up by school principals hurt their businesses.

Ms. Mutua says that when the government said schools couldn't sell uniforms, people were relieved, but they were shocked when the calling letters said the opposite.

"Parents used to swarm here to purchase uniforms at first, but due to principals operating their own enterprises, we are now experiencing poor sales. Our earnings are being eroded by the principals' book sales in the classrooms." She suggested that they manage the schools while they operate their businesses.

Some teachers said they had purchased the clothes the previous year.

"Where do you want us to take the uniforms that we've already bought? One of the benefits of buying from one supplier is the ability to prevent multiple color tones, which is important in schools, " according to one of the principals.

Unexpected admission fees

Julius Melly, the chairman of the National Assembly's education committee, requested that the Teachers Service Commission take action against principals who impose additional fees.

He said that the Ministry of Education would be held responsible for problems with fees, uniforms, and illegal extra charges, and he said, "TSC should give us a report on the principals who have been suspended and fired."

"We are really worried as a committee. We undoubtedly advised them against purchasing uniforms from the school. What steps are being taken to address these concerns in the sector by the CS and his PS, Belio Kipsang? Do they lack teeth? Are they unable to carry out regulatory requirements?" he queried.

The government published the boarding school tuition rules last month. Ezekiel Machogu, the minister of education, advised parents to contact the closest education office with any instances of pupils being dismissed due to unpaid tuition fees and other levies.

The government is covering all tuition expenses, which come to Sh22,244. Thus, parents whose children are enrolled in public day secondary schools shouldn't be made to pay any fees, according to the CS.

On Monday, Mr. Machogu told secondary schools that they couldn't turn away Form One students who needed help because they didn't have enough money or meet other requirements.

He said that no young person should stay at home because there were enough spots for students to go to high school.

He also said that when parents can't buy uniforms right away, they should be given some time so that the child can come to school wearing the uniform they wore to elementary school and use it now.

Mr. Machogu was happy with how the first day went while he was watching Form One admissions at St. George's Girls in Nairobi. He said that county and regional directors were also making sure that the admissions process went smoothly.

According to Mr. Machogu, the administration last week distributed Sh16 billion to around 10,000 secondary schools across the nation. The Ministry had said before that the capitation rate for high school students would stay at Sh22,244.

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