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Who is to blame for schools failure to admit form ones without school fees?

The  Ministry of Education has extended the admission of form ones by seven more days to accommodate the few remaining students who have not yet reported for various reasons, in line with the government policy of 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary schools.

According to a circular released to all Regional and County Directors of Education by the Principal Secretary for Education, State Department of Early Learning and Basic Education, Dr. Belio Kipsang, the government is on course to achieving the 100 per cent transition and the ministry has extended the deadline of admission in order to ensure that no learner is left behind.

The circular states that school administrators should use the extension to trace those selected to join their respective institutions, but had not reported and at the same time capture all newcomers in NEMIS.

It further directs head teachers of primary schools to make sure that all their 2019 candidates are placed and reported to schools. This implies that no child should be denied chance to access secondary education without the knowledge of the principal secretary through the county and regional directors of education.

While listening to a debate over the radio about news that the Meru High School Principal has turned away a pupil for failure to raise the required school fees, my mind reflected back to my experience in the same school six years down the line. I was taking my son for admission in form one. The newly admitted form one’s number was overwhelming and I was sent back home by the secretary to the principal, simply because I did not have the original admission letter. My explanation that the boy was on the school admission list and that I had used the original letter to borrow school fees from my Sacco fell on deaf ears.

Attempts to meet the principal were mischievously blocked by the secretary who I could hear speaking on monotones to someone over the phone of an open opportunity that had presented itself.

She even blatantly told me that this was the specific chance she had been looking for. All this time I kept my cool and tried to communicate with the Sauti Sacco office in Nairobi over the quickest way to have them send the original letter to me.

Luckily for me, I met a former college mate who was a teacher at the school and he helped me to handle the issue without involving the secretary. To date that secretary never understood how I managed to retrieve the original letter and have my son admitted on the same day. She would always look at me slyly whenever I went to the school for whatever reason for the four years my son studied in the school, but never in any other event did she block me from meeting the principal or his deputy.

According to recent media reports, Mike Mati Ngugi, 14, was sent away by the Meru School principal for failure to pay school fees amounting to Sh.51, 216. Mike scored 417 marks in the 2019 KCPE examination.

The reports further state that Mike’s father, Albert Mati, could not raise fees the total fees but managed to raise Sh 5,000 from friends and 15,000 from the Tharaka Member of Parliament, George Gitonga Murugara. Albert is now requesting well-wishers to help him pay school fees for his son. He has even disclosed his telephone contact for easy communication.

Meanwhile, the current Meru School Principal has received both condemnation and empathy in equal measures in the debate on social media and FM stations.

Some of the reactions on social media expressed sympathy for the boy. Others said the principal is inhuman, inconsiderate and insensitive.

“He thinks he owns the school by denying the young boy a chance to get basic education due to his humble background,” said another agitated resident.

However, perhaps different approach to the whole saga would be, “If you can’t afford Meru  School then go to another school and study because I’m certain although it is a good institution, it doesn’t make you an A material but only your hard-work and commitment to study.

Another post read: “That boy comes from some constituency and I am sure he was one of the best students there. What criteria is used to disburse bursaries there if this boy couldn’t be given a full four year scholarship? The government needs to come out with clear and workable plans on how to educate these needy children because they are many.

Meanwhile, let’s try to look at this matter on both sides. The boy is bright and needs help to join school. On the other hand the school needs money to maintain him. The policy of 100 percent needs to be supported by word and deed. By now word has it that the boy has gotten a sponsor and thanks to the extension of the admission dates, he should join the school of his choice. But how many others out there whose plight might not have been highlighted by the media?

Is the school principal to blame for this challenge? Could be he is not even aware of the issue. He could be hearing it from the FM stations or reading it on social media like the majority of us, for lack of proper channels to meet such desperate parents and guardians.

By  David  Mutwiri

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