Kenya: Parents Pay Heavily for Unrest in Schools

3 December 2021

Schools have imposed hefty fines for destruction of property - up to Sh13,000 for every student - in addition to clearing fee balances.

As schools that had been closed following unrest across the country over the past two months reopen, parents have had to pay a heavy price for rebuilding infrastructure and clearing outstanding fee balances before their children are readmitted.

The implication is that many, perhaps in their thousands - considering at least 44 schools are affected - are unable to pay and their children remain at home.

Most of the schools have since reopened but parents complain about the punitive penalties they are made to pay.

Some principals and boards of management (BoM) have been accused of exaggerating the cost of repair and rebuilding schools.

Questions have been raised on the accuracy of cost estimations of the damages, with a parent going to court to stop a school from collecting the fines.

Education Cabinet Secretary, George Magoha, insists that the government will not carry the cost of damage caused by students.

"We shall not handle students with kid gloves. Anybody who plans to burn a building will not be admitted to any other public school in this country. We shall ensure your parents foot the cost of repairs before you are taken to court," Prof Magoha said last month.

National Parents Association chairman, Nicholas Maiyo, says unrest has been recorded in 44 schools.

Clear fee balance

Mr Maiyo criticised the insistence by school managers on clearing fees, terming it punitive and going against the Ministry of Education policy and guidelines.

"It is not easy for one to clear the fee balance and fine at the same time. Parents are going through difficult financial times. Let them pay for the damage first," he told the Daily Nation.

Sigalame High School in Busia county, which has experienced six arson cases since August, has reopened though some parents have withdrawn their children.

The student population is down to 1,500 from 1,780.

The BoM diverted money from other vote heads to build four dormitories before the funds dried out. One dormitory is incomplete.

Sigalame principal, Peter Auma, has left the school but is yet to be posted to another station.

He told the Daily Nation that he is on sick leave and has not handed over to acting principal, Francis Sumba.

The fires at the school were attributed to tender wars and disputes between Mr Auma and the local community.

Students reporting back to Dr Krapf Memorial Secondary School, Kilifi county, were required to pay Sh8,300 each.

They razed a dormitory after being denied a chance to watch an English Premier League football match.

Re-admission penalty

At Ngala Memorial Secondary School, every boy was ordered to pay Sh13,500 before re-admission, while the girls were exempted from the fine since their dormitories were not affected.

Malindi High School students were each slapped with a Sh3,000 penalty.

Kakamega School students have been at home for a month and will know their fate today.

Reopening has been put on hold after a parent - Boaz Vida - and the Child Care Legal Clinic took the management of the school to court over a Sh21 million fine charged on the students after a dormitory was destroyed on November 6.

Mr Vida's lawyer, Oscar Munyendo, on Tuesday dismissed the assessment report filed by the school in court, terming it strange.

The lawyer said part of the report contained quotations for electrical fittings for a building at Sigalagala National Polytechnic.

The court is expected to rule on the applications by the parties at 10am today.

Kakamega school head, Gerald Orina, in communication to parents, said the board is unable to start renovating the dormitory without money from the fine. Every boy had been asked to pay Sh9,823.

"The dormitory hosted 560 students on the upper floor and a similar number on the ground floor. It will be impossible to accommodate those students," he said in the message.

Destroyed dormitory

"The school will communicate an opening date when the court process is exhausted."

The 580 students of Mbaikini Boys High School in Machakos county have been readmitted but each had to pay Sh6,000 for the 200-capacity dormitory that was destroyed by a fire.

The students were spread across other dormitories as construction of the destroyed one goes on. Five have been charged with arson.

"The damage was initially estimated at Sh4 million but was scaled down to Sh3.6 million after exclusion of items that could not be quantified like shoes," a parent told the Daily Nation.

Students of Kanjuri High School in Nyeri county also started reporting back, with the first group arriving on Tuesday while the third and last did so yesterday.

Each of the 1,275 students must pay Sh4,500 to cover the cost of repairing a destroyed dormitory.

The renovation of the dormitory is about 90 per cent done and is expected to be complete by the end of the week. Some students are sleeping in the dining hall.

Molo Academy in Nakuru county has also reopened. Every student was supposed to report back with Sh2,000 to replace the window panes destroyed when they went on rampage. The students also vandalised a teacher's vehicle.

Jamhuri High School in Nairobi county started a phased reopening on Wednesday. Each of the 1,389 students would have initially been required to pay Sh16,985 for repairs and replacement of damaged items.

The estimated cost is Sh23,592,950 but the school says it made savings from meals when students were away and received donations from well-wishers, reducing the fine to Sh13,385.

Additional reporting by Benson Amadala

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