Nadim Nsouli, the chairman of Inspired Education Group, the parent company of Brookhouse International Schools, has expressed his disgust over a move by parents in Kenya to take the school to court after a fee dispute.
The international school had resorted to virtual learning following the indefinite closure of schools by the government due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
The management offered parents a 10 per cent discount. But the parents moved to court protesting the directive requiring them to pay nearly the full school fees for third term despite their children learning from home.
The High Court on Thursday, April 30, ordered the management to reduce the school fees by half pending the determination of the petition. Judge Weldon Korir also stopped online classes for pupils in kindergarten up to those in year four.
In a Zoom meeting said to have taken place on Monday, May 4, Brookhouse Parents Association’s legal team, Nsouli termed the demands that the school fees should be reviewed downwards during the Coronavirus pandemic as “unreasonable”.
Making reference to 64 schools he manages across the world, Nsouli told the dissenting parents that they have an option of taking their children to other schools saying, “I have never encountered such behaviour from any other schools, or ever in my life.”
The Lebanese and British businessman told the parents that the company spent at least $25 million to put up the “best structure” in Africa and he can not allow any losses.
“Our approach is extremely reasonable and in line with other schools that are of similar calibre. If anyone does not pay me for my services I will cut them off,” he said.
He said he would rather have 40 per cent of the school population paying 100 per cent of tuition fee than full attendance at 100 per cent paying 40 per cent.
While he understands that Kenya doesn’t have support structure like in Europe the CEO said he will do everything to protect the Group’s 6,000 employees around the world.
“Today I am taking on the pain and all the impact, however, should this matter prevail and proceed in court there will be dramatic repercussions, ” he threatened.
The CEO castigated the parents for refusing to take advantage of a ‘”distress fund’” offered by the institution, accusing them of being too embarrassed and proud to accept help.
The parents had demanded that the school give a breakdown on how it arrived on the huge figures despite the students taking their classes from home.
But Nsouli dismissed the demands saying it’s none of their business.
During the meeting, angry Nsouli demanded that the parents clear all the 50 per cent fee allowed by the court on the same day or the students involved would be cut off.
He, however, agreed to extend the deadline to end of week if the parents agreed to end the negotiations and drop the suit by end of day Monday.
Nsouli told the parents that learners in grade four and below will have an opportunity to cover lost time as they will get “free” 3 weeks of booster lessons for three hours a day prior to school’s physical reopening. However, this is pegged on 100 per cent payment of all term three fees.
The proposed concessions during the meeting were that all meals and other non-tuition costs be removed from the invoices and new (invoices) raised. The members proposed that 20-30 per cent discounts remain fixed and that older classes have room of increasing offered discount from 10 to 15 per cent.
Last week parents differed on the petition filed at the High Court.
A section of parents argue that they were not part of the group that had moved to court as “Brookhouse Parents Association” saying they were never consulted. The group claims that some of the parents had resorted to sabotage virtual learning as they were either too busy or lazy to help their children go through the program.
Supreme Court Judge Njoki Ndung’u and Radio Africa Group Operations Manager Caroline Mutoko, who are parents in the institution, are said to have led the parents to sue the school.
The school also defended their demand for third term fees. The school directors stated that despite students learning from home, the school is paying teachers and support staff full salaries.
The school directors argue that 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.
“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 dated May 1 sent to parents after the court ruling.