Cost of Education Keeping Teens from School
COVID-19 has exacerbated poverty in the country and school-going children are feeling the impact in more ways than one.
When schools resumed in January this year, following the countrywide closure in March 2020 when the first cases of Coronavirus was reported in Kenya, hundreds of teenagers; both boys and girls, never made it back to school.
According to a report released by the Office of the President in June, 250,000 girls and 125,000 boys failed to return to school in January largely because of school fees and teenage pregnancies. 160,000 of the 250,000 girls reportedly failed to return to school owing to teenage pregnancies.
While Teenage pregnancy is an issue, it’s high time we looked beyond the statistics and headlines on rising cases and tackled the root causes; the key among this being poverty.
Education has become increasingly expensive in Kenya, owing to a failing public education sector and the government’s constant failure in walking the talk on school fee directives as school administrations continue to burden parents with creative ways of making money ranging from high costs of school uniform, books, personal effects and the ever non-ending development fees.
Free Primary Education? Not Really
It was therefore not surprising to see a cry for school fees take center stage during an event organized by a consortium of Community-Based Organisations in the Gender space to commemorate the International Day of the Girl.
“It’s a shame when I stand here dressed in school uniform, while hundreds of my peers are out of school due to school fees,” a standard six pupil said during her presentation.
“I only have one request from the government and the adults in the room, please pay our school fees,” another raised girl raised her hand from the audience and appealed.
Numerous children continue to miss out on school due to lack of school fees and other education costs, including those in primary school, which is a shame for a country that purports to have free primary education.
President Mwai Kibaki introduced Free Primary Education (FPE) in Kenya in January 2003 and although it substantially increased school enrolment in the country, the gains are being reversed as time goes by.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government has also been keen on achieving 100 percent transition from primary to secondary schools but looking at the situation on the ground, the reports on paper are nothing to go by.
The disrupted and shortened school calendar has not made it easy for parents, who nowadays have only a week after school closure to get the next term’s fees ready. Considering the increasing cost of living, reduced incomes and job losses occasioned by COVID-19, parents’ ability to afford school fees have been affected and children are feeling the impact.
It’s become a common occurrence to see dozens of high school students in matatu terminus on weekdays when they are supposed to be in class, after being sent home for school fees just barely a week after opening school.
Others are forced to report school up to four weeks later after school opening as their parents struggle to raise school fees and clear arrears, as school administrations remain adamant on the threshold that needs to be paid before a child can be allowed in school.
Kenya’s next government need to restore the public education sector at least to the past glory it had during Retired President’s Moi tenure.
We need a system that guarantees quality, affordable, accessible and consistent education for our children.
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