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The rich also cry: Parents in elite schools want fees cut

By Augustine Oduor | May 3rd 2020

A dispute is brewing between parents and managers of high end schools over this year’s fees.

The dispute that points to the level of financial devastation triggered by the raging coronavirus pandemic has seen a number of parents threaten to pull their children out of the institutions unless the schools reduce fees for this year. 

In several correspondences seen by The Sunday Standard, the parents have complained bitterly about exorbitant levies and demanded that this be negotiated with a view to bring them down.

In one of the schools, parents have commissioned a survey among them to establish the level of financial crisis they are facing to justify their push for major fees reduction.

The survey by parents at the Kenton College Preparatory School revealed that nearly three quarters of them are self-employed or own businesses, with almost half of them having lost up to 80 per cent of their income.

Only 25 per cent of the parents said they can afford the proposed online teaching and learning programme for their children as presented by Kenton College. 

Nearly two thirds (65 per cent) of the parents were willing to pay up to half of the school fees while 26 per cent said they did not have a payment plan.

“We humbly request Kenton to reconsider fee reductions of between 40 and 50 per cent as it will be more practical for most parents given the financial impact on incomes,” reads the letter by Chris Banks, chairman of school’s board of governors.

Reduced school activities

The parents argued that most activities such as sports, practical lessons, learning material, music, catering, trips, which would otherwise be covered during school time, are now being done at home or not at all.

“It is our hope the school will stand with the parents and provide the much-needed support. It is this true sense of community that will allow Kenton College to stand out from the crowd of private schools,” reads the letter dated April 17.

Many of the parents poked holes on the online teaching and learning programme, with 93 per cent questioning its effectiveness.

“The school has also not communicated on the mode of assessment, grading and reporting for the child’s performance during this period,” reads the letter.

At Aga Khan School, parents said the Covid-19 pandemic has brought serious economic challenges and hardships and proposed a fees payment plan that would cushion them from the harsh economic realities.

In a letter to the school management, the parents requested a 50 per cent fee reduction as opposed to the 20 per cent proposed by the school.

“The 50 per cent discount will cushion the parents from the adverse financial impact of Covid-19 whilst ensuring children continue to receive the high quality education offered. At the same time, Aga Khan will be able to maintain their valued student population therefore retaining the all important business critical mass. This will deliver a win-win position for all stakeholders,” wrote the parents.

In justifying reduction, parents argued that the school will be on lockdown for a period equivalent to an entire term and as such, operating costs such as provision of food, cleaning services, transport, sports, school trips, music, drama and teaching support will not be incurred.

The parents pleaded with the school administration to give a commitment for a zero per cent fee increment when schools re-open.

In the statement, parents hinted at withdrawing their children from the school if their demands are not met.

“The most undesirable option would be for parents to withdraw their children from the school due to a discount that is not considered fair or equitable,” reads the letter to school.

Similar threats of withdrawing children from school if fees was not reduced surfaced at West Nairobi School.

“The negative economic impact has had such devastating effects that some families may take drastic measures of withdrawing their children from West Nairobi School,” the parents wrote in a letter to Gregg McNeil, the school’s director, in a letter dated April 24.

“Many international schools in Kenya and globally have restructured the school fees for the fall semester and instituted reductions ranging from 10 to 35 per cent,” the parents wrote.

Reduced fees

A number of schools such as Hillcrest and Rusinga have already reduced fees by up to 50 per cent.

The management at Peponi School has also received similar pleas from parents for fees reduction.

“Due to the current pandemic many of the parents are facing financial constraint due to significant reduction in income brought about by the economic downturn affecting all businesses and employees. The parents, therefore, request the reduction for school fees to be in the range of 40 to 50 per cent instead of the offered 25 per cent,” reads a letter by the parents dated April 20.

They also want the school to consider a freeze in fee increments for a period of two years.

The appeals came in the wake of a case by parents at Brookhouse who moved to court and obtained orders compelling the school to reduce fees by half citing financial hardships caused by Covid-19 outbreak.

The parents, who pay between Sh150,000 and Sh1.5 million per term, argued that the school was charging full term fees even when their children continue to learn from home.

Through lawyer Ahmednassir Abdullahi, the parents argued that the school commenced online classes before consulting them.

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