More than 100 private schools might not resume learning when schools reopen in January 2021. The Kenya Private Schools Association says most administrators of the schools cite lack of finances to keep the schools going due to the Covid-19 pandemic and are shutting down completely.
“We have reports from about 109 schools across the country that will not be coming back to business. They have folded up to try something else because having no income for those many months is extremely difficult,” said the association’s chairman Peter Ndoro.
He said so far, close to 39,000 learners will have to look for alternative schools, and that 1,400 teachers and 1,100 support staff have been rendered jobless by the closures.Kastemil School and Kindergarten in Kasarani, Nairobi, is among those that have decided to shut their doors.
The management of the school, which has been in operation for more than 20 years, said they weighed their options and realised it was no longer viable to continue.“Covid-19 has greatly affected private schools. We had to close because it became obvious that we could not sustain operations for the coming months without students to pay fees,” said Jane Kamau, director of the school.
In a letter to parents, the school’s administrators said the bulk of their learners were in primary school, but under the prevailing circumstances, parents of that young population may be hesitant to release them to rejoin school due to their vulnerability.
“We cannot therefore run the school sustainably in the foreseeable future, hence our very hard decision to close,” read the letter.
Mr Ndoro has described the situation as a crisis in waiting, as more private schools sink into debt and many more are exiting the education sector. He said ever since Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha announced that schools would reopen in January 2021, the association has been getting reports of schools from different parts of the country sending messages to parents to start looking for other options.
“It is happening in almost all parts of the country. I have many cases and it is so sad because it means parents have to start thinking of getting new schools at this time when there is so much uncertainty,” said Ndoro. The association has been urging the government to come to the aid of private schools and commit to offering capitation to students in private schools for the next two years after schools reopen.
Prisca Ojwang’, a parent at a school in Kayole, Nairobi, said the closure of private schools has been making her anxious since there is not a single public school in her neighbourhood.
“The parents association in our school decided to take up the matter in an attempt to save the school. We have been making some donations to help pay the watchman and cleaners of the school. If it closes down, it will be so stressful to find an alternative,” she said.
Statistics from the Ministry of Education shows the number of private primary schools in the country rose from 7,742 in 2014 to 16,594 last year. On the other hand, the number of public primary schools increased by only 1,728 in the same period.
The same trend is seen in the number of private secondary schools, which have been recording a sharp rise, even as the expansion of public institutions remain negligible.
“People have a misconception that taking your children to a private school is because you are snobbish. Rather, it is because the public schools are too far away,” said Ojwang’.
According to statistics from the Basic Education Statistical Booklet, Nairobi is among the areas with many mushrooming private schools. Currently, there are about 208 public primary schools in the city, and most of them are overpopulated. The growth rate of public primary schools Nairobi is only 3.2 per cent compared to private schools’ 12 per cent.
Pricilla Nyevu, an Early Childhood Education teacher, said even the private basic education centres that operate in estates are likely to close down in the next few months.
“The headteacher where I teach in Eastlands has been sending us worrying messages on WhatsApp. He is contemplating moving out of Nairobi and he says we should be prepared for anything as he talks to other investors to bail him out,” she said.