Kenyan Private Schools in a Dilemma

As schools reopen after closure to control the spread of the coronavirus, some of them will remain closed. Some affected learners are still not sure of where they will prepare for or sit for their national exams. RoGGKenya visited some affected schools and talked to the stakeholders to understand the challenges that they are facing.

Priscila Mutego, 37, is worried after her employer decided to shut down her school rendering her jobless.

The Grade 4 teacher at Bridge International School in Maweni slum, Mombasa County, is among 400 affected teachers in Mombasa.

With nothing to do in Mombasa, she decided to relocate to her rural home in Msambweni, Kwale county .She started farming together with her family.

“I was declared redundant by the school where I had taught for close to 12 years. My life came to a standstill. But I had to collect myself and restart. I am now trying my hand in farming,” she said.

Brightons Academy in Changamwe, Mombasa County, is yet to reopen following financial constraints.

The proprietor of the school, Elder Galgalo, says he needs a grant from the Ministry of Education to reopen the school. “I cannot reopen the school because I have huge bills which must be paid but no source of income,” he said.

Priscilla Mutego in class before the COVID-19 pandemic. She is one of the many private schools teachers who lost lost their jobs. Picture: Lydia Mwawasi

Difficult situation for candidates

When RoGGKenya visited the school, deafening silence could be ‘heard’, emphasising the emptiness of the institution. Not even a watchman to guard the property.

“I had 200 pupils, eight candidates who are supposed to sit for their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination this year. I need at least Ksh1 million to reopen. Some of my pending bills include the accruing county rates, wages, NSSF and NHIF for the seven months the schools were shut,” he said.

Galgalo has managed to place his candidates at Kimbilio Academy , another private school to ensure they revise ahead of their national examination.

Migration of learners

Galgalo said the pupils had to move to the other school with their desks to avoid congestion and observe the social distancing rule.

When he noticed that he could not reopen the school, he made a notification at the Education office in Changamwe Sub County.

Many private schools in the port city have been hit hard by the pandemic and remain shut.

The Ministry of Education through the County Office advised parents to get in touch with the head teachers of the schools and get alternative schools for their children. He added that public schools are open to everyone with the help of the County Director of Education.

According to statistics from the Kenya Private Schools Association (KPSA), over 100 schools, especially in slums are struggling to reopen.

Winnie Ouma, a parent of a Grade 4 learner, had to transfer her daughter to a public school after her school was shut down.

“I was in a dilemma, my daughter’s school was shut down permanently. She was set to sit for her Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) assessment but I lacked the fees. I am happy that she got admission in a public school in Changamwe,” she said.

In March 2020, the government through the Ministry of Education closed down all learning institutions, when the pandemic hit the country. The ministry, later on October 12, 2020 ordered schools to reopen for Grade 4, Grade 8 and Form 4 learners.

Nowhere to go

Mombasa County Education Chief Officer John Musuve told RoGGKenya that some  private schools are struggling to operate.

“I would like to advise the schools that are struggling to report to their associations which will then table them before us and find a way forward. So far, the information on my desk is that 20 to 30 schools in Mombasa are struggling but I have not been given the exact issues they are going through,” he said.

Teachers are members of various associations. Like the Kenya Primary Schools Head Teachers Association and the Private Schools Teachers’ Association.

However, he advised parents of the students who had been affected to get slots at the nearest public schools to proceed with learning.

This might be a challenge because there are not enough public schools in Kenya and private schools are trying to fill the gap.

Some parts of Kenya, like Kitengela in Kajiado County do not have a single public primary school. The existing public schools are in neighboring towns , which makes commuting a problem.

Shortage of public schools

To make matters worse, in 2019, the  government had shut down its own 1,665 public schools. 955 public primary and 710 public secondary schools were closed for not meeting basic standards provided by the Ministry of Education.

4,837 private primary and secondary schools were also closed during the countrywide assessment, bringing the number to 6,502.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha in October 2019 revealed that there were 3,000 unregistered schools in the country. This was after shutting down 2,000 similar schools.

Kenya Private Schools Association chairman Elisha Mwango, said, so far three major private institutions, including a secondary school, have shut down in Mombasa, due to the effects of the pandemic.

Mombasa has 800 primary and secondary private schools, but only 400 are registered by the Ministry of Education.

Moses Makori, the County Director of Education in Mombasa County, says that there are 98 public primary schools and 41 secondary schools, with over 30,000 students.

“Any proprietor struggling should come forward and report to our association so we can see how to help them. We want our members to be given grants to reopen the schools. Many parents are struggling to find schools for their children,” he said.

He added that the schools are suffering because they only relied on school fees. Makori also urged the county government of Mombasa to waive licenses due to lack of business.

Though they couldn’t operate their businesses during the lockdown, they are still expected to pay for license renewal.

“Parents are scared of paying school fees because they are not sure whether the schools will remain opened, there is uncertainty,” he added.

What journalists should do:

  1. Visit schools around your area and find out those that are struggling to reopen. Highlight their struggles.
  1. Get the number of learners whose schools were affected and find out from the Ministry of Education what plans it for them.
  1. Report any case of learners who have been denied access to public schools.
  1. Find out the status of the public schools that were shut down for not meeting basic standards. Were they improved and reopened or do they remain closed?




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