Private schools seek Sh7b to stay afloat post-Corona crisis

Thursday, August 6th, 2020 11:00 |
Pupils in class. Photo/Courtesy

By Irene Githinji and Viola Kosome

Private schools are seeking at least Sh7 billion assistance from government to put them on recovery path following the ravaging effects of coronavirus disease.

Kenya Private Schools Association (KPSA) chief executive Peter Ndoro on  Tuesday the institutions have collectively requested the government to finance them, which will basically go towards infrastructure investment. 

“We need to look at ways private schools can be supported, including provision of credit facilities, if they are to stay afloat and the Sh7 billion we have put out to Government can start us off well,” said Ndoro.

Ndoro made the remarks in the wake of fears that over 124 schools could close shop permanently owing to the harsh economic times brought about by effects of coronavirus pandemic. 

He said getting ready to reopen comes with additional cost and will be a challenge to the already struggling schools and working with commercial rates will be expensive for schools to manage.

“Already, about 124 schools have put out a request to the Association, expressing their desire to close down.

The schools are saying they are not able to manage and it will be difficult to invest in reopening of schools, which requires huge financing,” he added.  

Alternative institutions

There are 9,400 and 1,600 private primary and secondary schools respectively, with a student population of at least 2.6 million.

Should the 124 schools be closed, almost 50,000 children will be forced to look for alternative learning institutions.

“We are discussing with Government on how we move from the situation we are in.

We presented our proposals on best ways to sort out the challenge that requires urgent intervention,” added Ndoro.

But Kenya Primary Schools Heads Association (Kepsha) chairman Nicholas Gathemia downplayed possibilities of private schools closing down altogether. 

He, however, stated that should such eventuality arise, a majority of public primary schools can accommodate more, especially if the government could provide funds for additional infrastructure.

“We are always ready to move as Government advises. Remember when quite a number of private schools were closed down last year, public schools were there to accommodate more children,” Gathemia said.

He said the challenge that public schools would face could only arise from delayed disbursement of funds for infrastructure development.

Parent’s choice

“We have no problem accommodating children to our schools but remember that decision is dependent on parent’s choice.

We cannot reject a child from joining any of the public institution, that is not only a national rule but also a natural role,” he explained.   

This came as a group of parents from a private school in Kisumu sued the management protesting the high fees levied on them despite closure of schools.

In a petition filed under certificate of urgency, parents and guardians of Mahavir Nursery School, Kisumu Junior Academy and Kisumu Senior Academy, a group of schools registered as community and non-profit institution under the Kisumu Education Society Trust have moved to court to challenge the extra levies imposed on their children to cater for online classes.

The parents sued the Kisumu Society Education Trust, Attorney General and Education Cabinet Secretary as the first, second and third respondents respectively.

Through their lawyer Cecil Kouko, they argued that the first respondent has irredeemably failed to offer educational services with reasonable care and skill and have failed to comply with promises made on services being provided to petitioners.

In the petition filed before Justice Thrispisa Cherere, the petitioners asked that a conservatory order be issued staying payment of full fees payable to first respondent.

They also want to be allowed to offset up to 30 per cent of school fees pro forma for Term Three of the year 2019-2020.

Further, the petitioners said other schools offering similar curriculum have made a considerable discount to parents in view of the harmful effects of Covid-19 pandemic.   

“Owing to supervening event caused by Covid-19 pandemic, other schools of the same parity in system, curriculum and fees structure have considered request by distressed parents and granted considerable fee discounts up to 50 per cent whilst some on their own motion without the intervention of parents have issued generous fee concession,” the petition.

In their prayers, they sought that a declaration be issued that the law obliges the first respondent and under the Constitution vide article 53(2) to consider the best interest of the children in their schools.

The petitioners have also asked the court to direct Education CS George Magoha to inquire in terms of section 52(1)(g) of the basic Education Act No.13 of 2012 about actions of the 1st Respondent in offering virtual or online learning and whether the same meets the basic education requirements in the basic Education Act, No.13 of 2012.

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