Schools are set to reopen next week amid anxiety from parents, teachers and students over mass transfers of headteachers and the ministry’s directive on school mergers that has been met with stiff opposition.
Already, preparations for first term have began in earnest with parents flocking to uniform centres and bookshops to secure the required items.
In Kisumu Friday, long queues were witnessed in uniform and bookshops as parents engaged in last-minute shopping.
Parents and students were forced to cope with long queues and increased uniform and book prices.
At Blackberry Enterprises, one of the leading uniform shops in Kisumu Town, the queues stretched all the way out the door with customers being forced to wait for long hours before being served.
The shop’s manager said sales had increased from the week leading to Christmas, forcing them to work till late. She attributed the high sales to students joining nursery schools, Class One and Form One.
While the situation was not different at bookshops in the town, workers said a majority of the parents were only buying writing materials, not textbooks. They attributed this to the announcement by Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i that the government will supply textbooks to schools starting 2018.
“This time around we’re only selling exercise books and other writing materials. Very few people are buying textbooks,” said Mr Rahjan Vati of Saranwat Industries bookshop.
However, parents decried the rise in prices of commodities, saying they were forced to dig deeper into their pockets.
“I expected the prices to be high but not this much. It has forced me to use more than I had budgeted for,” said Mr Mark Muindi, the father of a Form Three student at Onjiko Boys High School.
In Kakamega, supermarkets were packed with parents in last-minute shopping. At Tuskys supermarket, queues started forming from early in the morning.
Bata shops in Kakamega Town reported improved business as parents with children joining Form One called in to buy shoes before heading to supermarkets for other items.
Traders at the municipal market cashed in on the rush by parents to buy boxes for their children’s personnel effects.
In Kisii, Ms Damaris Mokeira, a parent, said she had done her daughter’s shopping early.
“I decided to shop and pay school fees mid this month because I suspected that I might be tempted to use the money for Christmas and New Year celebrations,” she said.
Another parent, Mr Shadrack Maticha, whose son is in a secondary school in Loitoktok, said he had to cut short his holiday in Kisii to shop for his son.
“I’m planning to shop tomorrow because I’m sure most parents have scheduled it next week,” said Mr Maticha.
In Homa Bay, parents and guardians flocked to supermarkets and banks to buy school items and pay school fees for their children.
The parents asked the government to regulate school fees charged by secondary schools in the country to avoid exploitation.
Homa Bay Kenya National Union of Teachers chairman Patrick Were urged Dr Matiang’i to rethink his directive calling for admission of all students who sat KCPE examination to secondary schools regardless of how they scored.
“Dr Matiang’i’s reforms should be scrutinised because most will affect parents,” claimed Mr Were.
Reported by Victor Otieno, Benson Amadala, Nyaboga Kiage and Barrack Oduor