Kenya: Brookhouse Discredits Parents' Complaints in Fee Dispute

Pupils follow a social studies lesson on the EDU TV while doing their revision at home in Kibera.

Brookhouse International School now says that the 10 per cent fee reduction they had already given to parents as a result of the disruption caused by Covid-19 tallies with what other schools in its league are offering.

According to the school board of directors, the demand by a section of parents for further fee reduction is based on a misconception that that international schools in Nairobi are in some way benefiting from their physical closure.

"The opposite is the case," the board said to parents in a letter dated May 1, just a day after the High Court ordered it to reduce school fees by half and also stopped online classes for kindergarten and lower primary learners pending the determination of a petition by a section of parents.

According to the directors, far from benefiting from the physical closure of schools, there have been increased IT costs in terms of software and teacher training, loss of revenue due to general tuition fee reductions, loss of revenue due to the hardship fund support, loss of revenue due to bad debts, and announced fee reductions.

"As you are aware, contrary to what has been reported in the press, the school had outlined in a previous letter the general fee reduction available to all parents for Term Three tuition. Our fee reduction levels are in line with other major international groups of schools in Nairobi of similar scope despite our superior live virtual learning offering," the school board says in the letter.

VIRTUAL LEARNING

A section of parents moved to court on Wednesday, accusing the management of reducing the fees by a paltry 10 per cent, yet the schools are closed because of Covid-19.

Following the petition, High Court Judge Weldon Korir issued orders that school fees be reduced by half and also that online classes for kindergarten and lower primary learners be stopped pending the determination of the petition.

In the letter, the board of directors say the petition is being driven by "a small group of parents" who they had engaged in a discussion to reach an amicable solution.

"As you know, nowhere else globally has the ceasing of learning been considered an outcome in the best interest of children, which is all that really matters. The ELS to Year Four teachers will greatly miss the chance to work with your children, and I take this opportunity to express my apologies to all those ELS to Year Four families who would have wished to continue with their live virtual school learning. I hope that we can resume our provision for these age group shortly with your support," the school says.

In the letter, the school also says the online virtual learning is a wonderful tool to ensure students remained focused despite the public health measures that have been put in place to contain the spread of Covid-19 in the country.

"We strongly believe that Brookhouse has been at the forefront of live virtual learning globally which has been demonstrated by an attendance rate of close to 100 per cent of our students daily," the board says.

REVIEW POLICIES

Short of the court orders being reversed, Brookhouse now says it may be forced to review its policy of continuing to pay full salaries to its staff and retaining the ancillary workers.

So far, the school board says they are yet to declare redundancies because they want "to protect and maintain the quality and ethos of Brookhouse ... and to ensure that when the school does reopen our community remains intact".

The directors say that despite the closure of schools and loss of revenue due to general tuition fee reductions, they have continued to pay wages of ancillary staff - such as cleaners and drivers.

The board also says they have left untouched staff salaries. "Unfortunately, we may need to review these policies in light of the interim court orders," the school says in the letter.

The hearing of the petition is set for May 13 and the school is required to file its response by May 5.

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