Acting Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i on Friday ordered an intensified crackdown against politicians and other people blocking newly-posted school principals from taking over the schools where they have been posted.
Politicians — mostly Members of County Assemblies in Makueni, West Pokot and Bungoma counties — have in recent days led protests during which headteachers were violently ejected from schools.
Five members of Makueni County Assembly were Friday charged with incitement to violence and conspiring to injure the reputation and undermining the authority of a public officer. The five were arrested earlier in the week after chaos that rocked St Joseph Girls High School in Kibwezi.
While giving the tough order during a meeting at the Kenya School of Government, Dr Matiang’i Friday said: “This nonsense must stop. We have lived with this backward behaviour for far too long. If we allow this behaviour to continue, then we might start having cases where MCAs will be dictating to us who the OCS (officer commanding the police station), county commissioners of even regional commissioners should be.”
He was addressing regional and county commissioners during security meeting also attended by county directors of education.
“The government will not rescind the decision. They can throw as much tantrums as possible because we are not going to change our mind,” vowed Dr Matiang’i.
According to him, some of the principals had also orchestrated the ejection of their colleagues for the fear that the ills they had committed in the institutions would be exposed by their successors after an audit of books of accounts in some of the affected schools revealed that a number of head teachers had incurred loans running into tens of millions of shillings but could not explain how the money had been spent.
And in a raft of measures aimed at streamlining the education sector ahead of the rollout of the new curriculum, Dr Matiang’i also cautioned principals of day secondary schools against charging parents extra levies apart from those recommended in fee guidelines.
Also to be implemented are the new guidelines requiring all school buses and vans to painted yellow, with the name of the institutions inscribed on the back. This must be before March 30. All the vehicles must also be fitted with seat belts in line with the Traffic Amendment Act which was passed by the National Assembly in 2016.
The vehicles will also be restricted to operate between 6am and 6pm, as the ministry moves to protect learners from accidents and immoral acts. “The influx in accidents in our roads including those vehicles carrying our children can only be tamed if we abide by the rules prescribed,” Dr Matiang’i said.
The Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet), Secretary-General, Mr Akelo Misori, asked the government to shoulder the costs of painting the buses for public schools because “there is no place for parents to contribute.”
He however said teachers had no option on the 6am to 6pm travelling rule but to conform to the requirements.
Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (Kessha) Chairman Kahi Indimuli also supported the changes but asked the government to address the issue of cost.
“We request the CS to direct that the changes in the logbooks should be free because normally such changes usually come with a cost,” he said and asked insurance companies to accommodate the changes.
The cost of painting a bus averages Sh150,000, according to motor vehicle repairers at Grogan in Nairobi.
The directive by the CS borrows from institutions in the United States and Canada that have their school buses and vans painted yellow. A similar proposal has been mooted in the United Kingdom.
The proposals by the ministry also seeks to give regional and county commissioners the responsibilities to chair county education boards, as well as to coordinate education matters in their regions.
Dr Matiang’i said that while the government had waived fees for day schools, some institutions were charging parents extra in the form of activity or lunch fees, a move he said went against government policy.
The extra levies charged in some of the day schools had affected the reporting of Form One students, with areas like the Coast being the most affected. The CS extended the reporting date in the affected schools by a week.
In the new fees structure, all students in day secondary school are entitled to a Sh22,240 capitation from the government.
“Fee guidelines must be adhered to without exceptions. Parents are advised to only pay the amount in the fee structure and report incidences of any student being turned away for not paying higher fees,” said Dr Matiang’i. “It is unfortunate that some schools in the Coast like Kwale and Malindi secondary schools, with capacities of over 200 Form One positions, had less than 100 students who have reported.”
And yesterday, mixed reactions from principals and unionists across the country greeted the directive on the painting of school buses.
Many principals in Nakuru and Nyandarua said the decision was “untimely and uncalled for”. They complained that they were operating on a tight budget due to increased admission of Form One students.
“The maintenance budgets for our two buses is normally done in April and it would be impossible for us to use another vote head to just paint a bus,” said a Deputy Principal in Njoro sub-county. Another principal in Nakuru Town said it would cost the school more than Sh100,000 to pain its 62-seater bus.
“If the government was truly interested with the safety of the students it should have set aside money for such an undertaking,” said the principal who requested not to be identified.
Another principal in Nyandarua said such increased spending should have been factored in the ministry’s budget. In Rongai Sub-County, a senior principal who was posted to a new school said the institution has more urgent needs.
While supporting the move, principals in Kisii said they will have to assemble their respective boards of management to look for ways to raise the money for the buses to be repainted.
Itierio Boys High School Principal Isaac Okeyo said it will cost approximately Sh275,000 to comply with the transport safety regulations. Despite the money challenge, he said, the school will comply by the end of next week.
“The money is not within our budget and we will have to look for means to have our two buses painted as per the regulations,” said Nyabururu High School Principal Joyce Orioki. In West Pokot, the area secondary schools headteachers chairperson Jonathan Siwanyang urged the ministry to give schools more time.
And while welcoming the changes, Kakamega School principal Gerald Orina said: “The cost of repainting a small car is about Sh60,000. For the buses, the cost will be much higher and we have no idea where the money will come from.”
The Knut Kakamega County chairman Patrick Chungani described Mr Matiang’i’s statement as unacceptable.
“The string of rules and directives issued by CS Matiang’i on school transport amounts to interference in running of the schools. He needs to consult widely on the issue,” said Mr Chungani.
In Kisumu, the local Kuppet leader Zablon Awange called on Dr Matiang’i to extend the painting time by at least six months. He accused the CS of creating confusion by issuing numerous directives without consulting stakeholders in the education sector.
Mr Awange, who called for the appointment of a substantive CS in the ministry, pointed out that the order will have serious financial implications on cash-strapped schools.
“An avalanche of directives is causing confusion in the education sector as teachers don’t know what to prioritise. There is no crisis to warrant buses to be painted yellow by March 30,” he said.
Additional reporting by Francis Mureithi, Elgar Machuka, Oscar Kakai, Derrick Luvega, Benson Amadala, Henry Nyarora, Leopold Obi, Elisha Otieno and Victor Raballa.