It is unfortunate that the government works tirelessly to ensure all pupils have transitioned to secondary schools yet upon reporting for admission, they find a huge stumbling block – the uniform cost menace.
Parents are forced to dig deeper into their pockets to buy uniforms and other items for their children. Most of these items are costlier than when bought at the retailers.
It is unfair to overburden the parents who are already struggling to raise school fees. One guardian from Kisumu put it succinctly:
“The student had been sponsored by the Kisumu County government. We wrote a letter to the school making a commitment to pay the fees within a few weeks, but the school was more interested in the purchase of the uniforms.”
To ensure 100 per cent transition, we must reduce such unnecessary barriers. In particular, pupils from hitherto marginalised regions find it difficult to proceed to secondary school because of such extra levies.
While parents and their children suffer, a few cartels – most of them school heads – are making a killing.
A school principal intimated to me: “With the perennial hiking of school fees contained, the next hurdle for the ministry is cracking down on the uniforms cartel because some of the suppliers are school principals.”
Another critical issue that needs to be addressed is inadequate funds and infrastructural problems in schools.
With the new policy, schools are forced to admit students without considering the capacity. Many are congested and students have been forced to share the limited resources.
According to the Garissa Knut executive secretary Abdirizak Hussein, many head teachers and principals are admitting students not because they are able to handle the numbers but because they are following the directive from the ministry. Given a free hand, they would not have admitted such huge numbers without the requisite infrastructure.
Apart from these challenges, schools in northern Kenya also have to contend with the perennial insecurity challenges.
The transition policy is a good one because it is part of a global campaign to give all children access to 12 years of learning. It also shows the government's commitment to the constitutional imperative of the right to education. However, let’s put in place good structures for proper implementation but, firstly, the uniform cartels must be uprooted.
Stanley Oseko, Kisumu