The school fees dispute pitting a section of Brookhouse parents and the management has taken a new twist after the parents who recently took the school to court were accused of sabotaging learning at the institution by another group of parents.
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.
High Court Judge Weldon Korir also stopped online classes for pupils in kindergarten up to those in year four, a move that has elicited an angry reaction from other parents.
In the petition, the parents had argued that the institution was charging more than other schools in its league.
But in a letter to the parents, the institution has maintained that the 10 per cent discount is what other international schools are offering.
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.
John O’Connor, Director Brookhouse schools, stated that despite students learning from home, the school is paying teachers and support staff full salaries.
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.
As the group that took the institution to court continues to demand accountability on how the management arrived at the “huge” figures, a section of other parents have vowed to go to court to quash orders barring learners in grade four and below from online learning.
The 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.
Kahawa Tungu understands that they will file the petition challenging the orders on Monday.
The parents argue that the likes of Justice Ndung’u and Mutoko have options to take their kids to cheaper schools since their major concern is the school fees.
Brookhouse directors will also be moving to court to demand that the difference between the demanded fees and that ruled by court be deposited in an Escrow account (jointly held between parents and school) pending the hearing and determination of the suit challenging the 10 per cent discount.
Before the court ruling, the school directors had maintained that the “small group of parents” can’t purport to represent parents in the whole institution.
The school said the parents can’t be treated as a group and any complaints should be raised on an individual basis.
“The school will work hand‐in‐hand with any individual parents who wish to discuss their particular circumstances. Please do get in touch with Ms Mwangi to arrange this. Ms Mwangi and I would be happy to schedule a personal interview for an individual discussion with any family in our community who wishes to do so, to try and assist wherever we can. We are there to support each one of you, ” the letter to parents reads.
“We cannot make arrangements with any groups of parents as many parents have already asked to be disassociated from the group who sent the letter. This does not diminish our willingness to engage with each and every family to assist, where we can, on an individual basis, ” the letter to parents reads.
The institution further asked parents who have problems raising the required fee to seek support through the Brookhouse Community Distress Fund (BCDF).
But the parents accused the school of failing to give details on how the kitty will be financed.
They further accused the institution of failing to address their concerns fully.
“You have set up the Brookhouse Community Distress Fund – but you have not stated how it will be financed (will some parents be subsidizing for others?), and what criteria will be used to determine who will benefit from it so that parents are not discriminated against. You have not responded to this query, ” the parents said in a letter to the school.
“We have suggested that It would be more helpful perhaps to utilize monies in that fund to better increase the discount percentage to give all parents equal relief in the devastating Coid-19 pandemic on the economy and all parents financial health. There has been no response to this proposal. We have undertaken a survey of Brookhouse parents detailing the challenges they are experiencing and we attach it herewith so as to assist the School in responding to our questions given the very real statistics and issues affecting parents. ”