Learners contend with hiked fares in back to school rush

Wednesday, October 13th, 2021 00:00 |
Students and other passengers scramble for public service vehicles at the Machakos Country Bus terminus in Nairobi, yesterday. Photo/PD/John Ochieng

Thousands of students yesterday flocked bus termini across the country as schools re-opened for the Second Term after a one week break.

The rush to get back to school, however, came at an extra cost as public service vehicles took advantage of the situation to hike fares.

In Kakamega county for instance, matatu and boda boda operators made a killing as they doubled fares due to the high number of learners that were trooping back to school.

Besides increasing fares, most of the PSVs and motorbikes carried beyond allowed capacity, the Covid-19 precautions notwithstanding.

Parents who had accompanied their children to school complained about the high fares and called for government intervention.

The situation was no different in Kisumu and Homa Bay counties where learners were rushing back to school.

Fees arrears

“I have paid Sh800 for my daughter and I from Kisumu to Kakamega town then another Sh300 to her school in Shinyalu. Normally, we pay Sh200 from Kisumu to Kakamega and another Sh100 each on boda boda to the school. But they have doubled the fares,” a parent told People Daily.

In some schools, parents were required to clear the second term fees for their children before they were allowed in class.

Some schools turned away learners who had fees arrears.

To avoid the rush and congestion on opening day, some schools had required students to report back on Monday even though it was a public holiday.

They included St Mary’s Mumias Girls, St Peter’s Mumias Boys and St Ignatius Mukumu Boys.

The heads of the institutions said they had foreseen yesterday’s situation and wanted to avoid it. “We knew that there would be a major crisis on Tuesday which is why we decided that we stick to Monday even after it was declared a holiday,” said Esther Amukwachi, the Chief Principal of St Mary’s Mumias Girls.

In Kisii County, bookshops and hawkers said sales were unusually low.

Josephine Omanwa, who operates a bookshop in Kisii town, said parents and guardians have no money to buy books since they are under pressure to clear fees.

She said the few parents were buying books unlike before.

“As you can see, I have few customers and it takes time for others to come. Some are buying revision books,” Omanwa said.

Ombati Omosa, who hawks books, calculators and geometrical sets in Kisii town, said some parents could not get some of the books they were looking for because they were out of stock.

“Some parents have panicked after failing to get the books from hawkers and bookshops. They wasted time moving up and down only to go back empty handed,” Ombati said.

John Morefu, another book vendor, said he had braved the scorching sun only to sell a single book, adding that the majority of parents were facing financial problems because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I have only sold one book since morning. I do not know what I will take to my family in the evening,” Morefu said. The hawker said if the trend continued, they may be forced to close shop. -Reporting by Denis Lumiti, Robert Ochoro and Noven Owiti

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