HOW FREE IS FREE?

Hold on! It is in uncountable setting that I have had this uncertainty. And I would like someone to cloudless expound to me the real meaning of a word in Oxford Dictionary which is not vivid enough to me in terms of its denotation. My scrutiny lie heavily in the word ‘free’ as used in Free Primary Education, commonly referred to as FPE. The ‘free’ in that version bring a lot of contradictions to many parents who have children in Public Primary Schools. These children in public primary schools are required to access education freely as stipulated in FPE policy. Children are considered to be anybody less than eighteen years of age, children (Act 2001).
Just to recollect the history of FPE it goes back to 1974 and later in 1979 when the Kenya Government launched the initiative.
That initiative was a new dawn for both parents and children.
The FPE initiative had innumerable challenges and collapsed only to be revived by NARK government in 2002 which was their campaign pledge for voters. In that case therefore, in January 2003 President Mwai Kibaki reintroduced the Free Primary Education.
The mystery still lingers, how free is free? It has been in many occasions when the parents have received their children back in their houses. It is for a fact that children have been taken back home asserting they have been sent to collect activity fee. The parents are required to pay the activity fee yearly pausing a question whether the government has exempted it? It is also comic that parents are required to pay other funds which amounts to a lot of money yearly. The schools which are understaffed employ teachers who are paid by the PTA that leading to emergence of PTA money. I also actualized that, a student who is a new comer is required to pay desk fee and admission fee. The same student is also required to pay money for interview which gives a hint the academic level of the learner.
In addition, there are schools where parents are required to pay other school bills like electricity which administrators allege it caters for cost of pumping water. Schools which are fortunate to have computers parents are required to pay computer fee and in other situations parents expected to buy photocopier papers. In most of Public Schools there are days where children are supposed to put on P.E kits uniform which is sold in the school store. These uniforms are overpriced. As that is not enough parents also pay report book money so as to access their children’s examination results.
And it will be imprecise to overlook the monthly examination fee. The examination is done monthly and in other occasions after a fortnight. If a child fails to pay that money he/she is not allowed in school premises leave alone the classroom. The parents are also asked to contribute money to pay the school watchman or the cook if there is a feeding program. Now the tuition issue that makes the Education Cabinet Secretary want to spit up. His directives have always fallen on deaf ears because children still pay money for remedial class.
Apart from wanting to really know what ‘free’ means in free Primary Education Policy, the initiative in question has faced many challenges. The increased enrollment in schools is demanding increment of physical facilities. The classes are crowded and the classroom teachers have to handle more than one hundred children in one classroom. The government should not leave the school administrators to go to bed having a disturbing migraine wondering where to place the children.
I wish ‘free’ would be free or alternatively have the word attached to another connotation altogether. Children from badly off families are not getting full access to their rights of education. If the government claims to be committed to providing Free Primary Education to Public Primary Schools, then it should be unconditionally free. The Cabinet Secretary of Education Jacob Kaimenyi put it incontrovertible that the government will be paying the National Examination fee for children in Public Schools. With that said, I reckon the government should take possession of full responsibility to pay all the examination money for children from lower primary to secondary school.
Let the parents be spared from the pressure of paying fees having in mind that many children in Public Schools come from poverty-stricken families. My esteemed government, it is a heyday for Kenyan children.

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