Parents at St Mary’s Girls High School in Meru County have petitioned Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha to intervene, saying about 600 students have been sent home over a Sh44 million loan.
They said students in Form One, Form Two and Form Three were sent home Saturday while those in Form Four left on Sunday morning, with instructions to return after clearance.
The parents noted that the school in Igoji acquired the loan from a commercial bank seven years ago, when it sought to build a dormitory. The one-storey facility houses about 500 students.
Parents at the national school are to pay Sh22,000 annually, above the regular fees, until the loan is cleared.
One who did not wish to be named said many were unwilling to pay since the loan was procured long before the about 1,200 students enrolled.
Others who started paying said the arrangement was harsh and that the amount should have been spread over time so they are not overburdened.
The parents pay at least Sh50,000 in annual fees, and an additional Sh2,000 as motivation fees.
One said, “The school is empty, not because of fees but because of levies that have not been gazetted. We have raised queries during the parents’ annual general meeting but it has not been included in the minutes. We were overruled by parents
who are friendly to the board of management."
Another said, “The principal said she inherited a loan and that the only way she could run the school was was to clear it."
Another parent asked for an audit, saying the amount borrowed for the project may have been exaggerated.
School Principal Petronilla Mulwa did not respond to the Nation's questions on the matter.
However, Imenti South Sub-county Director of Education, Mercy Itunga, said the institution is struggling to meet its basic obligations due to parents' delays in clearing fees.
“St Mary’s has very unique challenges which everyone, including the CS, is aware of. There is no way children can be kept in school if parents are not paying fees. How do you feed them?
"I am aware the children were sent home to remind their parents of their obligations."
Early this year, a worker at the institution told the Nation that some students were forced to eat outside because the dining hall could not accommodate the entire student population.
“The dining hall only fits one class. If Form Ones get in, the others cannot fit. At no time can they have meals together. They eat from outside in the sun,” the source said.
The institution also has a shortage of laboratories since they only have three serving the entire population.