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Punishing parents is not the way to upgrade our schools

Friday December 06 2019
OGUPIC

Kenya Secondary School Heads Association Chairman Kahi Indimuli, joined by Ministry of Education top officials, addresses a press conference at Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, on October 1, 2018. Principals have been given the free will to raise fees. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By GABRIEL OGUDA

This week the Kenya Meteorological Department issued a red alert regarding the continuing torrential rains.

The government followed this up by asking those living in the lowlands to move to higher ground.

As Kenyans were preparing their contingency plans to save themselves from being swept away, the Ministry of Education issued another torrential downpour of affliction: starting next year, secondary school principals will now have the leeway to increase school fees without reference to the ministry.

We have always believed this government will maintain a symbiotic relationship with its citizens, but this latest decree has disabused us of that hope.

Parents’ dearest wish is to be cushioned from predatory secondary school principals who collude with members of schools’ management boards to hike school fees, often to the detriment of poor, struggling parents.

Kenyan parents pay government officials a lot of money to come up with sound education policies that will make their lives bearable and ensure minimum interruption of learning for their children.

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JUBILEE PLEDGES

If this latest move is what we are getting in return, then the ministry needs to choose one struggle – either enact people-friendly laws and keep enjoying taxpayer’s money, or issue ministerial decrees that punish Kenyan parents and find another sponsor who shall finance their lifestyles. There can be no two ways about this.

This is the same government that went on a whirlwind tour across the country in 2017 promising Kenyan parents more goodies than Father Christmas if we behaved well and elected them back into office.

The 2017 Jubilee manifesto promised to make secondary school education free for day scholars; teachers were to be treated like the kings and queens they are, and every county was promised a Sh25 million windfall to upgrade its existing secondary school infrastructure to national standards.

The government was re-elected into office, and two years later, we still have secondary schools in this country with infrastructure that last saw an upgrade during Dr Taita Towett’s stint as Education Minister.

DENTED HOPES

The Teachers Service Commission has opened up a warfront with the Kenya National Union of Teachers.

If you wanted to kill the teachers’ union, why subject them to a slow and painful death when you could just walk into their offices and ask for the keys?

Kenyan parents had their hopes raised when Prof George Magoha was appointed to replace Amb Amina Mohammed at the helm of the Education ministry.

Their hopes were high because Prof Magoha seemed to be the right man for the job; finally, the ministry had found a teacher to preside over the affairs of the Education ministry.

There is no doubt Prof Magoha is an accomplished technocrat who has excelled in various positions of higher responsibility, most prominently as Vice Chancellor of the University of Nairobi, and the head of the National Examinations Council, where he made his name as a no-nonsense leader who abhors incompetence and lives on the straight and narrow.

CONGESTION

Parents had hoped he would carry this broom into his new role as the administrative head of the Education ministry, but it now looks like instead of taking sides with the common Kenyan, he has chosen to sup with the ministry bureaucrats.

He joined a government that speaks out of both sides of its mouth and learnt the ropes faster than an expert paraglider.

There is no reason the government shouldn't be charged for false advertisement. Even the Bible speaks strongly against parents who promise their children bread but only give them stones.

If you wanted to ensure 100 per cent transition into secondary school, there are more realistic and practical ways of achieving this dream than building castles in the air and sending us the invoice.

HEALTHCARE

You cram our children into secondary school dormitories like crayons in the name of ensuring 100 per cent transition, and when asked to provide the money to build more dorms and classrooms to accommodate this upsurge, you shamelessly pass the cost on to the helpless parents who did not even ask for this policy in the first place.

Even crayons don’t get to be treated this badly even if they don’t even have crayon rights defenders.

You cannot continue inflicting pain on Kenyans by hiking school fees, and when we go to hospital to buy painkillers to alleviate this pain we find drugs are out of stock too.

Which country is this where we do not even have the freedom to choose how we would love to die?

The author comments on topical issues; [email protected]

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