Confusion erupts over 2018 fees amid free education promises

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Heads of hundreds of secondary schools have been thrown into confusion over next year’s fees after both Jubilee and Nasa promised to offer free secondary education if they win the October 26 repeat presidential election.

Head teachers who spoke to the Nation said they were not sure whether they  should prepare their budgets for approval by their respective boards of management to guide the school fee structure for next year.

“We have not received any directive from the Ministry of Education on how to conduct our programmes apart from seeing officials talking in the media about free day secondary education,” said a principal of a secondary school in Nairobi.

The principal, who sought anonymity for fear of being seen to contradict the officials, asked the government to use the remaining two weeks to guide them on whether or not to charge fees next year as they could not rely on pronouncements made by politicians on the campaign trail.

“Parents need to know what they will pay and we do not want to ambush them at the last minute,” said another principal from Busia County.

The school heads also want to know how non-teaching staff and board of management teachers will be paid if the government insists on free education starting January 2018.

However, some schools are preparing their budgets in case the Jubilee administration fails to win the repeat poll.

“Suppose Nasa wins, its plan will be different from that of Jubilee. That’s why we have to plan,” said a board member of a national school in Nairobi.

Both the National Super Alliance and Jubilee have promised to provide free secondary education if elected.

Prior to the August 8 election, Nasa pledged to implement free secondary education starting last month.

Its presidential candidate, Mr Raila Odinga, has accused the Jubilee government of derailing the plan by stealing the August 8 presidential election, which has since been nullified by the Supreme Court.

President Kenyatta has maintained that his government, if re-elected, will provide free secondary education from January next year.

The ministry has said while the Jubilee government will offer absolutely free education for students in day secondary schools, it will pay for tuition only for those in boarding secondary schools, which means parents will have to foot the other expenses.

Kenya Secondary School Heads Association chairman Kahi Indimuli said schools are yet to get any directive from the ministry on how the new policy will be implemented.

“We need to be advised on arrears since we have to settle accrued debts. We also need guidance on ongoing projects running into millions of shillings and which were being funded by parents,” said Mr Indimuli.

He noted that schools are keen not to start the new year with problems, hence want to plan early.

The school heads also want clarification on the issue of boarding schools.

National Parents Association chairman Nicholas Maiyo welcomed the free education plan but asked the government to ensure the perennial delays in the disbursement of the cash is addressed.

“As parents, we will play our roles and we also expect the government to play its part so that children can get quality education,” said Mr Maiyo.

Special Needs Schools of Kenya chairman Arthur Injenga said proper planning of the programme will ensure Kenyan children have access to quality education.

“We are ready for this programme and hope the government will not disappoint us,” said Mr Injenga.

The Jubilee government has allocated Sh25 billion for the free secondary education programme to ensure a 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary school.

All the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education candidates for this year will join secondary school if the plan is actualised.

“In 2018, the Form One intake will cater for 1,003,522 learners sitting their KCPE examinations this year. Of these, 903,200 will join public schools, while 100,322 will join private ones,” State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu said in a statement. 

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