The notice dated December 23, 2021, when schools closed caught many parents off guard. With the Ministry of Education keen on curbing unlawful activities in school, several measures were introduced across the country.
From drug testing to proposals on corporal punishment and even directives on denying students good conduct certificates.
A nationwide debate ensued, with pundits arguing and differing on national TV. However, what surprised me most was the circular by the principal of my son’s school.
“Pocket money will be limited to Ksh1,000 only as we provide food and transport during school events,” the signed circular read.
My son handed me the notice with dismay and sought my response on the same. I knew he wanted me to side with him as much, especially with his shopping and pocket money totalling nearly Ksh5,000 in his previous terms.
Sandra, my wife, and I had agreed on giving him the money to plan his own shopping and pocket money and fare back home during the term breaks and closing dates.
“Giving him Ksh4,000 for shopping and Ksh1,000 for pocket money would be too much,” Sandra said when we sat in the bedroom to discuss.
“I do not see any difference,” I argued. “What the principal is demanding is accountability and this is what most parents are being asked to teach their children,” I added.
“But how would the school find out that he has more than Ksh1,000?” Sandra asked.
I did not know how to answer that question. All I knew is that this directive was issued for the betterment of the school, to hold students accountable and also reduce unlawful activities in the school.
We had not been notified of any issue in the school but I bet the principal was enforcing precautionary measures.
Two or three parents called me and asked me to check the Form 4 Whatsapp Group where parents and teachers discussed some issues that did not warrant physical meetings in school.
800 messages! I found someone had tagged me, asking for my advice or recommendation on the issue.
“The principal is adamant on this issue. I wonder why yet I can give the money to the bursar who would always sort my child whenever he needs the money,” a parent called Jane had written.
Some parents termed that outdated, others stating that the current crop of students needs to be regulated. A number supported the principal, others differed.
“My son is disciplined and I believe those parents who can afford more can give more. Why should you limit me! Is this a government directive,” another parent whose name was only an angry emoji wrote.
I was tagged again, and I stated that for the four years at the school, Laban always handled money issues with utmost honesty.
“How much do you give him?” another parent asked.
“That’s private. We do not advocate him revealing the amount owing to the pressure and debate that will ensue here,” a teacher, Marriot wrote, reminding parents that students will report in January and the directive will be enforced.
“I support the principal. My son squandered school fees and my credit card which I had sent him to shop with. He then called me a month later saying that he was broke in school and that I should consider offering him a bonus when he comes home,” a heartbroken parent wrote.
His story formed another debate for over an hour, prior to one parent solving the whole debacle.
“I use Co-opPay prepaid card to control my child’s pocket money and expenditure. This is among the new digital techniques and this Gen Z generation, being smart, need such enforcement.
“By saying Co-opPay prepaid card means using Co-op Bank, right? ” the principal asked.
“The Co-opPay prepaid card puts safety, convenience and control in your child’s pocket money. This is a Visa Card which you load with money and give your child to buy things from the school canteen, free of charge! You don’t need to have a Co-op Bank account,” the parent explained.
He added that in case the student needs cash e.g. for bus fare on school closing day – they can withdraw cash at the school, or any Co-op Bank ATM outside the school
“You can monitor the use of the card by getting free mini statements at any Co-op Bank ATM or Co-op Kwa Jirani agent. You can also load the card from anywhere, anytime from Mpesa pay bill 400200, at any Co-op Kwa Jirani, or transfer from any local bank account using Pesalink,” he added.
Many parents jumped at the offer, forcing the principal to agree that what mattered at the end was ensuring students spent money wisely. He agreed to withdraw the notice.
Sandra and I also agreed that it would be the best way to hold Laban accountable. He also beamed at the idea of having his first bank card.