It is early November 2010 and parents are seeking space for class one while others want to transfer their children because of issues related to relocation, job transfers or fees. My neighbor, Mrs. Kamande was on the same trail seeking to transfer her two children to public school from high cost primary school. Reason being that she feels that her children lack social skills she acquired in public school when she was young.
On this day she entered into one of the local primary school (school identity hidden) just to find the headteacher settling to serve the local parents. After explaining that her children have been schooling in one of the academies and she wanted to transfer them to public school, she was shocked by the headteacher’s reaction. “are you bringing your children here because you have lost a job or it is that you want to save money”? Mrs. Kamande was shocked beyond words. She decided not to respond to the query but instead focus on her mission, ‘what do I need for my children to be admitted in this school?’
She was issued with a long list of requirements which included: school desk at Ksh.2,500; registration Kshs. 1,500; Tp Kshs. 300 per term; Tuition fee Kshs. 1,000 per month. On top of this, one has to buy text books, exercise books and school uniforms. For Mrs. Kamande this was not about money or a lot but the reason she decided to share this was total different. She was simply asking and wondering what part of free primary education is free and at what happens to all the desks that are bought every year by parents.
This made me to cross check with other public schools elsewhere. Her experience was similar with that of parents in Mathare and Huruma. I was able to establish that on average one pays Kshs. 7000 (almost 100 USD) for new registration apart from school uniform, text and exercise books, school meals and tuition fee even though it is not mandatory.
Back to Mrs. Kamande’s experience, She wondered what happens to the school desks, and if parents are allowed to take them away when a child finishes class 8? Finally she decided not to transfer her child to a public school because of the attitude the headteacher might have on her children. Another reason, the difference between the academy and the public school is not all that good. However she still believes that public schools are the best as you are guaranteed of a teacher being qualified as they are forwarded by Kenya Teacher Service Commission. Our conversation ended with a question; what part of free primary education is free?