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Push to have parents associations in international schools as fees pressure grows

By Augustine Oduor and Kamau Muthoni | October 17th 2020

Effects of Covid-19 that resulted in job losses, collapsed businesses and reduced income have pushed parents with children in international schools to form a lobby to negotiate affordable fees.

The Saturday Standard has established that with most schools not keen to revise fees downwards, parents now want an organisation that would protect their interests. 

The push started at the peak of Covid-19 pandemic when parents sued some institutions over payment of fees for online classes.

As these events unfolded, it was clear the strains of Covid-19 pandemic had opened a Pandoras box where ‘God for us all and everyone for themselves’.

Private school proprietors had to keep their schools afloat while parents pushed to pay less school fees owing to the tough times.

Cases filed before the High Court in Nairobi and Mombasa lifted the lid on what parents and the institutions were dealing with. 

And when parents asked the court to compel Brookhouse, Crawford School and Oshwal Academy to have parents’ and teachers’ association, the court and the Education ministry agreed with them.

Justice Weldon Korir directed institutions to have a parents’ association in place to facilitate negotiations whenever there is a change of policy. He gave Brookhouse 20 days to have the association in place.

The parents appeared to sue on behalf of all parents – under Brookhouse Parents Association (BPA). However, the lobby had not been registered.

Following a counter case by parents who were pro-status quo, the judge said neither group would push for the interest of the other.

At Brookhouse, the problems were deeper than just school fees. Trust was also an issue. Leaked discussions on social media was one among many reasons they could not sit and iron out the differences.

The parents alleged that the school had frustrated attempts to form an association.

While denying the claim, the school claimed it was in the process of forming an association of parents when the petitioners filed the petition. However, none of them produced evidence to support their claims.

Justice Korir said: “The petitioners cannot claim that they were frustrated by Brookhouse for over seven years and did nothing about it. On the other hand, the school has not shown why it has not complied with this statutory imperative. Be that as it may, it is now time for the school and the parents to establish a parents’ association as required by the law.”

“In the matter at hand there is a set of parents under the initials ‘BPA’ and another set of parents under the initials ‘DPGT’. No set of parents represents the interests of the other. No parent is superior to any other parent. Each parent is therefore entitled to be heard. All parties concede that the second respondent has no association for parents and teachers. The “BPA” is not a registered or recognized association.” 

Kenya Association International Schools (KAIS) head of secretariat Jane Mwangi said parents’ association is a requirement of the law.

“We appreciate the important role parents play and look forward to including them more as they are key stakeholders. We will continue to involve them in matters to do with child protection and welfare and in activities within the schools,” said Ms Mwangi.

Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang, in his reply to the cases, said parents are entitled to have a lobby.

Crawford School parents had a similar claim to that of Brookhouse. They claimed the institution had frustrated their efforts to form their lobby. They also complained that online learning was introduced without consultation. 

In the Crawford case, the judge gave them 120 days to sort out the lobby issue. Oshwal Academy also got 120 days after the court found that it had also not complied with the law.

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