Dirty tricks school principals use to charge extra fees

Dirty tricks school principals use to charge extra fees

Some secondary school heads have defied Education ministry guidelines on fees and imposed illegal levies on parents.

The extra charges, some illegal, come as families feel the pinch of paying fees after every two months under the current crash study programme up to the end of next year.

Next Monday, parents will be paying school fees for the third time in seven months when the 2021 academic year begins, with the government seeking to normalise the school calendar by January 2023.

The principals issued fee structures that blatantly contravene the ministry rules when schools closed for the end of 2020 academic year last week.

The illegal extra levies are disguised in various terms to avoid education officials’ detection.

Separate demand slips

Although some of the schools have not included the added levies in their official fee structures, the Nation can reveal that parents have been issued with separate demand slips.

Headteachers have ensured such slips don’t bear school logos or official stamps to avoid self-incrimination.

Some schools have also resorted to recording payment of the levies in separate books of account, and the official receipts issued to parents do not reflect the illegal charges.

For instance, the official fees structure for Tumutumu Girls High School in Nyeri County, seen by the Nation, only requires parents to pay Sh33,250 in first term — just slightly less than the Sh35,000 recommended for the whole year for extra-county schools, the category it falls under.

The fees structure bears the school logo and is signed by the principal, Mrs G. Githinji. The fees for other terms is not indicated. However, parents who spoke to the Nation said they were also issued with an undated and unsigned “fee compliment”, which requires them to pay Sh68,500 for the year, way beyond even what national schools charge.

The figure for the whole year “as approved by parents, the PTA and the BOM” is given as Sh60,500.

Unauthorised levy

In the breakdown, the slip contains a levy that is not authorised by the Education ministry. Tumutumu has asked parents to pay Sh8,000 for “PTA syllabus fast-tracking programme (PTA Programmes)”.

In Makueni, learners at Barazani Girls High School were issued with the official fee structure with a “curriculum development fee” of Sh8,000 spread across three terms for the new academic year.

This is despite curriculum development being a function of the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, with teachers only being implementers.

According to the fee structure signed by the principal, Mrs Muriuki JM, the “other payments” were agreed upon by Parents Association (PA) members during a meeting held on July 2, 2021.

“I’m not aware of such a meeting because there was no communication by the PA either before or after the meeting,” Judith Mutete, a parent said.

“No parent was called to, or even allowed into the school since Covid-19 pandemic started. The school uses class teachers to call parents to ask for the extra levies,” the parent added.

The problem appears widespread, with many of the parents who spoke to the Nation choosing not to go on record for fear of victimisation.

Strain on finances

Some with the correct fee structures complained that they have been forced by some schools to pay fees in two instalments — first and second term combined — instead of the stipulated three instalments.

This, they say, will put a strain on their finances.

The fee structure from the national Kisii School indicates parents with children in Form Four need to pay Sh33,609 in first term, which begins next week, and the balance of Sh11,391 in second term, which is scheduled to begin on October 11. The school has, however, not over-charged parents.

Contacted, Basic Education Principal Secretary Julius Jwan Tuesday ordered principals to adhere to the fees guidelines he issued through a circular last month, and warned that ministry officials will monitor operations in schools.

“We’re currently undertaking a training for our county and regional directors of education in Mombasa on how to approach the next one year during this disrupted world order. We expect them to monitor their various regions to ensure [that] parents are not overburdened by some principals,” he said.

The circular asks parents with children in Category A secondary schools (national schools and extra-county schools located in the towns of Nairobi, Mombasa, Nairobi, Kisumu, Nyeri, Thika and Eldoret) to pay Sh45,000 this year, down from Sh53,554.

The fees for Category B schools (all other boarding schools, including extra-county not located in the towns named above) will be Sh35,000, down from Sh40,535.

Special needs secondary schools, all national schools, will charge Sh10,860, with the government paying Sh53,807 for each student. Previously, parents paid Sh12,790.

Capitation funds

Schools will receive capitation funds in four instalments of 25 per cent each for both the Free Primary Education and Free Day Secondary Education programmes.

However, some school principals are opposed to fee reduction, claiming, schools owe suppliers millions of shillings in pending bills.

The Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association Chairman Kahi Indimuli said he cannot defend principals who flout ministry guidelines on school fees since a provision for charging fees outside the ministry guideline has been given.

“Any extra levy must go through the public participation process and application for approval made. I encourage my colleagues to ensure they seek approval from the county directors of education or the headquarters in the case of national schools,” he said.

He added that the officers responsible for the approvals should also not delay the process.

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