Crisis as learners transfer from private to public schools

Canaan Primary School

Pupils inside a classroom at Canaan Primary School on January 6, 2021.

Photo credit: Peter Warutumo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • With a capacity of less than 3,000, Milimani Primary in Naivasha now has more than 3,700 pupils after an additional 250 joined from private schools.
  • Bidii Primary, also in Nairobi, has enrolled more than 160 new learners while Lavington Primary has 150 new pupils.

A crisis is looming in some public schools after parents transferred their children from private learning institutions due to a myriad of reasons.

Most of the parents interviewed by the Nation said they moved their learners after their private schools closed down or increased fees.

Other parents have lost jobs while some have moved residences.

Others cited salary cuts that have crippled their financial muscle and thus they can no longer afford to pay fees, while those running businesses blamed their woes on low returns due to a sluggish economy occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.

With a capacity of less than 3,000, Milimani Primary in Naivasha now has more than 3,700 pupils after an additional 250 joined from private schools.

On day one of school reopening, hundreds of parents seeking admission at Olympic Primary in Kibra, Nairobi were turned away as the school is enrolled beyond capacity at 4,700 pupils.

Bidii Primary, also in Nairobi, has enrolled more than 160 new learners while Lavington Primary has 150 new pupils.

Nairobi regional director of education Jared Obiero said the numbers are expected to be high considering that 1,200 learners sought transfers when only Grade 4 and Standard 8 learners were in school late last year.

Naivasha director of education Bernard Chirchir revealed that several other public institutions within the sub-county admitted many learners following the closure of the Maai Mahiu-based Prayers Beyond Boundaries School due to financial problems.

Shut down

"The affected pupils were absorbed in nearby schools within Maai Mahiu after the private institution was shut down due to the effects of Covid-19," he said.

A spot check by the Nation found that a majority of private schools increased fees by up to Sh10,000.

A former parent at High Peak Junior Academy in Naivasha, Charles Mwaura, said he withdrew his two children from the school due to fees increment.

"I would have paid an average of Sh61,000 up from the previous Sh41,000, which I could not afford," he said.

Another parent who requested anonymity for fear of victimisation said he was contemplating withdrawing his child from another private school after the fee was increased from Sh27,000 to Sh37,000.

Teresiah Wambui said she withdrew her Standard Four learner from a private school after the fee was increased from Sh6,000 to Sh10,000.

But in an interview with the Nation, Highpeak Junior Academy director David Mwangi said most of the institutions could not have survived on the previous fees structure.  "It was simply untenable.”

Covid-19 protocols, he said, have pushed up overhead costs, forcing private schools to readjust in order to remain afloat.

Mr Mwangi cited transport, saying school buses are making more trips owing to the social-distancing requirement.

Fuel consumption

"That simply means fuel consumption had increased, with the institution sharing the extra cost with parents. What we increased is reasonably fair, given the existing environment," he said.

The director of Gilgil Hills Academy Beth Kanyi said there was no fee increment at the school that has registered a 100 per cent reporting.

"We were able to work within the previous fee structure given that the majority of parents were hit hard by the pandemic," said the director.

She said the school has been forced to review its financial obligations in order to survive the effects of the pandemic.

In Nyandarua, the county education board is worried by a high number of parents moving their children from private to public school, causing a crisis in the public learning facilities.

Nyandarua Education Executive Ndung’u Wangenye said the most affected learning institutions are primary schools neighbouring urban centres, public primary boarding schools, and early childhood development Education centres.

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