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Dilemma over fees after premature closure of schools

By Allan Mungai | April 4th 2020
National Association of Parents vice-chair Sarah Kithinji.

The closure of schools to curb spread of coronavirus has raised concern among parents who now want to be reimbursed some of the money they paid to learning institutions.

Parents argue that when schools open they will be forced to pay fees yet not all funds for the first term were utilised. 

On March 15, President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered all learning institutions closed as a cautionary measure against the spread of Covid-19. 

And as the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus skyrocket, experts in the education sector say it is unlikely that pupils will return to school at least until June and parents are wondering whether they will still have to pay for services such as meals and transport, which the schools did not provide while the learners were home. 

According to the Ministry of Health, Kenya projects that about 1,000 cases will be recorded by the end of this week, 5,000 by mid-April and potentially 10,000 by April 30. 

“We still had about four weeks to go and we had paid to have the children get meals from the school until the last day. What happens when schools reopen? Do we pay again?” a parent at St Mary Sportsview Academy in Kasarani posed to Saturday Standard. 

“We have already made the payments and the best thing will be to advance them for the next term when classes resume,” he said.

And as the economy sheds jobs due to effects of the virus a number of parents may find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place, unemployed but having to pay school fees twice. As a result, parents are petitioning their schools to defer part of the fees.

Under normal circumstances, the schools would be closing for a month for the April holidays this coming week, meaning that schools closed about four weeks early.

“We have lost a month in which we had paid for everything including tuition. We have not engaged the Ministry of Education but I hope that when we do, they will agree to give a reprieve equivalent to the time that we lost,” National Parents Association Vice-Chairperson Sarah Kithinji. 

However, it is unlikely that schools will refund the monies for services such as meals that parents paid for. 

There is no precedent for refunding or deferring of school fees, especially in primary and secondary schools, and a number of schools have a policy against it. Granted some schools are providing online teaching and offering assignment to their pupils.

Private Schools Association Chief Executive Officer Peter Ndoro said the situation the schools were in was unprecedented. 

“At this point in time we cannot really say what will happen or what won’t happen. It is difficult to say what exactly will happen because we don’t know when the pandemic will end. But assuming it comes to an end sooner rather than later the school term had not ended and we still had some three or four weeks to go so we will proceed from where we left,” Ndoro said on Thursday.

The payments parents made, he said, will be utilised at that time.

“At the moment we know students went home on Friday and were asked not to report back on Monday, so when they do report we will begin from where we stopped and proceed until the first term ends, then we can break and start the second term,” he added.

The unprecedented closure of schools is already presenting an administrative headache to some private schools. 

“In the event that it takes longer than expected then the calendar dates will have to be reorganised which will require that different stakeholders are engaged to see how best we can organise our calendar events to be able to accommodate the challenges that have been caused by this pandemic,” Ndoro said.

Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association chairman Indimuli Kahi, said on Friday they were observing the situation and the development would inform the next step.

“The government said we first close for 30 days as they monitor the situation and that period is not over yet so it would be premature for me to comment. We are waiting for those days to end see the development. From there if the situation does not improve then we will sit as a sector and look at the challenges we will be facing,” he said. 

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