Harsh times push private schools to uncertain future

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021 00:00 | By
KPSA chief executive Peter Ndoro at a past press briefing. Photo/PD/File

Thousands of private schools are staring at a bleak future owing to serious financial difficulties visited upon them, since the outbreak of the Covid-19 in the country last March.

Records obtained from the Kenya Private Schools Association (KPSA) indicate 341 private schools, both primary and secondary, did not reopen following the resumption of learning on January 4 this year.

And data from the government also indicates that at least 56,000 learners transferred from private schools when learning resumed last week following the closure of hundreds of private schools, coupled with the financial constraints experienced by millions of Kenyan parents as a result of the ravages of the pandemic.

As of last month, private schools were reeling under the weight of Sh14 billion loans, borrowed from various commercial banks to pay salaries and prepare for the resumption of learning this year.

Cash flow challenges

Yesterday, KPSA Chief Executive Officer Peter Ndoro told thePeople Daily revealed their efforts to seek government intervention is yet to bear fruit, owing to the cash flow challenges experienced due to Covid-19.

“The Sh7 billion stimulus package we sought from the government right from last year is not yet released.

The government said it has financial cash flow challenges but as soon as the situation improves, one of the priority areas will be bailing out private schools though we are still not sure how for how long we will wait,” said Ndoro.

So far, there are about 11,400 private primary and secondary schools in the country, holding about 2.6 million of the total learners’ population, which stands at about 18 million.

Out of the total, 1,600 are private secondary schools with 277,000 students while 9,800 are primary schools with 2.3 million learners.

Ndoro said private schools have  303,000 direct employees out of which 158,000 are teachers while 145,000 are non-teaching staff.

He said the situation is bound to make education expensive since some of the schools that are still operating, sought loans from commercial banks and the burden has to be transferred to parents.

“These are difficult times for private schools and have made education expensive because most of the funds are drawn from school fees.

If the government had come in to rescue the situation, the burden would be less but now that exposes the parent because the cost of doing what needs to be done must be catered for,” explained Ndoro.

Directly affected

“For instance, investing in hand washing points and other Covid-19 mitigation measures are some of the things that must be done.

If we had soft loans from the government, repayment would have been staggered to about 10 to15 years as opposed to about three years for commercial banks while the only source of revenue is fees,” he added.

And as much as commercial banks stepped in to assist private schools, he said that not all of them benefitted.

Ndoro said private schools that sought credit facilities from banks were subjected to rigorous vetting to establish if they have the capacity to repay before getting the funds.

However, Education Chief Administrative Secretary Zack Kinuthia allayed fears that the future of private learning institutions looked bleak, saying the government was still determined to bail them out once the economic situation improves.

He also said the Sh7 billion soft loan that private schools had asked for was to be considered by the Education Ministry  and the National Treasury depending on availability of funds.

“So far, nothing has come up to bail them out because the country has been struggling financially, but that does not mean that the government has written off the request,” said Kinuthia.

He also stated that about 56,000 learners who were directly affected by the closure of private schools have successfully been transferred to other schools, especially Government sponsored.

National Parents Association chairman, Nicholas Maiyo admitted that private schools are going through hard times as they try to cope with Covid-19 dynamics, since they do not benefit from Government capitation.

“Private schools’ proprietors could be leasing land among other responsibilities and the fact that fees was not paid for almost a year, their main source of funding, has been a challenge and we have to receive the children who were affected,” said Maiyo.

He urged the government to give the schools support and consider the assistance they sought, since private basic learning institutions also play a critical role in the education sector.

“The earlier the government can offer support for private schools the better, because they also have a stake in the sector and come in handy since public schools are congested,” added Maiyo.

More on News