Private schools go online in search of fees for survival
From the Business Daily Tue 21 Apr 2020.
Private schools are turning to online classes to generate income from fees as they fight for survival in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that has led to the closure of learning institutions.
As the economic impact from the pandemic begins to bite, there are fears that some private schools could be driven out of business due to loss of their main source of income: Fees.
Elite schools such as Braeburn Schools, the Aga Khan Academy, Banda School, Cavina School, Premier Academy, Kenton School, Rusinga School and Sabis have reached an agreement with parents to charge fees for teaching students online.
This will boost their cash flow and facilitate paying salaries for teachers and non-teaching staff, maintenance of facilities and repayment of loans for investors who have tapped bank credit to build or expand their schools.
Mid-tier institutions like Riara School and Makini School are also preparing to open virtual classes in coming weeks as others test their platforms in readiness for resuming learning, albeit online.
Last month, President Uhuru Kenyatta directed all schools, colleges and universities to remain closed as part of far-reaching measures to reduce the risk of spreading Coronavirus.
Private schools have warned of a possible financial crisis and their teachers and workers being laid off in the event that the global pandemic continued beyond April. This would also delay the start to the second term. However, Education Secretary George Magoha has so far ruled out postponement of national examinations.
Now, some of the schools are offering fee discounts of between 10 and 50 percent for the second term to take into account the fact the schools have closed and are only able to offer online classes. Others are offering rebates for meals, transport and extra-curricular activities to cushion parents and guardians from paying higher fees.
In some of the schools, learners are taught real time via apps like Zoom and Skype, allowing them to interact and seek clarification from teachers, a move that look set to exacerbate the learning gap between the haves and have-nots.
“Most schools are opening the term tomorrow, and the classes will be done virtually. We have been forced to take a giant leap into the future,” said Jane Mwangi, secretariat coordinator of the Kenya Association of International Schools — the lobby group for elite private schools.
“Members of both the Kenya Association of International Schools (KAIS) and the Kenya Private Schools Association (KPSA) are reducing fees by 15 to 30 percent because in this case, there is no physical interaction with the students but there are other processes involved including need for desktop, laptops and internet by teachers,” she said.
Parents are seeking bigger discounts, arguing that schools’ running costs have dropped and that some are being asked to assist with online classes.
“The fee discount should be more than 50 percent as the students will not use the school compound, stationary and other material provided by the school,” said a notice from Rusinga School parents to the management seen by the Business Daily.