State should have larger school fees share than parents

Is it right for parents to pay more than the government?

Sunday January 10 2016

Kenya National Association of Parents (KNPA) Secretary-General Musau Ndunda addresses journalists in Nairobi on January 2, 2015. Parents, being responsible citizens, take it upon themselves to raise the funds. I suspect that a large number of those complaining do not have children in public schools and, if they do, they hardly attend parents meetings. PHOTO | FILE

Kenya National Association of Parents (KNPA) Secretary-General Musau Ndunda addresses journalists in Nairobi on January 2, 2015. Parents, being responsible citizens, take it upon themselves to raise the funds. I suspect that a large number of those complaining do not have children in public schools and, if they do, they hardly attend parents meetings. PHOTO | FILE 

By MUNGAI KIHANYA
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Can a public secondary school operate optimally while charging Sh53,554 per year as stipulated by the Ministry of Education? Having been a board of management member of a county school for the last three years, I can say without fear of contradiction that the answer is Yes!

This year, our school is charging Sh53,080 — inclusive of building/development and Parents-Teachers Association (PTA) fees. The Sh53,544 set by the government does not include the additional costs.

However, I must emphasise that every school is unique and has its own peculiar needs. So, it would be unreasonable to expect all schools to charge the same amount. As such, those that ask for more than the Sh53,554 are not doing so illegally.

After all, Section 6 of the third Schedule in the Basic Education Act (2013) allows the PTA to:

(c) discuss, explore and advise the parents on ways to raise funds for the physical development and maintenance;

(e) discuss and recommend charges to be levied on pupils or parents;

(f) undertake and oversee development projects on behalf of the whole Parents Association.

MEANINGFUL DEBATE

All the so-called “extra fees” fall under these categories. Good schools are good because they have good facilities. But the government does not provide enough money to build such facilities.

So the parents, being responsible citizens, take it upon themselves to raise the funds. I suspect that a large number of those complaining do not have children in public schools and, if they do, they hardly attend parents meetings. Nevertheless, while the school fees debate is important, I don’t think it is going in the right direction. To be more productive, we should ask the role the government in the running of schools.

The stipulated fees shows the government contributes Sh12,870 and parents Sh53,544. Is it right for parents to pay four times what the state is paying?

I do recognise that teachers’ salaries are not included in the fees, yet these are the single highest cost. These are paid by the government through the Teachers Service Commission (TSC).

According to the latest Basic Education Statistical Booklet (2014), there are about two million pupils in public secondary schools and 70,000 TSC teachers. That is, approximately 29 pupils per teacher.

Now, in the TSC pay scales, the median gross monthly salary of a secondary school teacher is about Sh60,000 — that is, Sh720,000 per year. Each teacher has an average of 29 pupils, so the government (TSC) contribution per student is about Sh24,000 per annum. Therefore, the government contributes a total of Sh36,000 (Sh12,870 plus Sh24,000 for TSC teachers) while the parents are expected to put in Sh53,000 (excluding school development funds).

So the question remains: Is it right for parents to pay more than the government? I don’t think it is and this is the direction that the school fees debate should take if we want to make any meaningful progress.

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