Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha on Thursday ordered headteachers not to send learners home over school fees. He said the government was determined to ensure that students regain the lost time occasioned by coronavirus pandemic and that no child is sent home because of school fees.
“I would like to firmly plead with our teachers that they have no permission from anybody to send a child home because of school fees.
Every child must be considered as a special case during this difficult time,” Magoha said when he commissioned the delivery of desks to schools in Kisumu County.
“We have received reports of some children being sent home and yet they are examination candidates. The government considers this unacceptable therefore teachers are hereby directed to ensure that no child who has lost time is sent home for fees,” he stated.
The Minister insisted that all learners must be considered as a special case and the events leading to their failure to pay fees analysed on a case by case basis. Magoha also stated that the government will consider transferring extra food from certain learning institutions to support the feeding programmes in schools experiencing shortages.
“I would want Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (KSSHA) Chairman Kahi Indimuli to find out from his members, there must be principals with extra food they are about to give to the children who are at home as we directed… can this be stopped for the time being as we make sure that no children are sent home in terms of fees,” said the CS.
He reemphasised that the government had released school capitation funds to aid the running of the institutions and ensure students are retained to continue learning uninterrupted.
“Can we agree to discuss issues of school fees as long as the child is at school and is not losing any more time? So, let us not hear that someone has sent them home. I have been told that someone has sent 45 children home, that cannot be our teacher because our teachers do not do that,” Magoha said.
He seemed to be alluding to a tweet by Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua detailing how he came to the aid of a Form 4 student Philomena Mutheu, who had been sent home for school fees alongside 45 others.
Mutua noted: “I have cleared the balance of her fee of Sh26,958 so that she gets back to school. She is now back in school and in class. I established that her case is genuine and not a fabrication as some people had purported. I commend her courage to pen her desperate situation and expose her suffering publicly.”
Governor Mutua said he had carried investigations and discovered that the school administration had sent home Philomena and 45 other girls for lack of school, a trend he said was occurring all over the country.
“I have held a lengthy conversation with the Principal of the school, Madam Lillian Ireri, who has confirmed that Philomena was among 45 students from her school who were sent home due to lack of fees on November 6. She said she took this action, despite the call by the National Government saying no student should be sent home because, after that announcement, there was a shift in the position after no money came from the Education ministry Mutua said in a statement.
Speaking in Kisumu County on Thursday Prof Magoha reemphasised that the ministry will ensure the desks are delivered quickly before full reopening in January 2021. He urged parents to be ready to shoulder next term fees for their children by January.
“I have started to hear murmurs here and there but let me be clear on this, we had said that the first term was complete and I am talking about boarding so we expect our parents to struggle when we open in January to pay fees for the second term… there is no argument there,” the CS stated.
He noted that the government’s instructions are very clear that as parents strive to pay fees, they should also be honest so that those who can pay in full or in bits should do so, but schools should be ready to listen to those who are unable to pay anything.
Magoha also took a swipe at those criticising the new school calendar, stating that the decision to come up with the revised school calendar was unanimously granted on after thorough education stakeholders’ consultation.
“The way the timetable has been brought was not by Magoha, Magoha is only the face of the government and my instructions were to meet the stakeholders. Those criticising the new calendar, if they have another system they think can save the year, they should tell us,” the CS said.
However, speaking separately, Kenya Primary Schools Heads Association (Kepsha) Chairman Nicholas Gathemia disputed that headteachers had sent children home, especially in primary schools.
Mr Gathemia noted that schools are fighting to cope with the situation because the government only released capitation money meant for the third term, yet there were some pending arrears like paying non-teaching staff for almost 7 months.
“Some of us are being forced to go back to our own pockets to cater for some of these things. In primary schools, nobody can dare send children home or ask parents for money so we have to make do with the little we have… we are really struggling,” said Gathemia noting that schools received 30 per cent of capitation funds when they resumed last month.
Capitation for schools is disbursed in 3 tranches, where first-term receives 50 per cent while the second and third term gets 30 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.