Pain as schools turn cla***s into rental property

Friday, August 21st, 2020 09:00 | By
Whistling Thorn School in Kawangware, Nairobi. The owner has turned it into a residential house since the closure of schools due to Covid-19 pandemic. Photo/PD/ALEX MBURU

Bernard Gitau and Harrison Kavisu

Thousands of learners in the informal settlements will not resume learning when schools re-open in January following a decision by propritors to turn the  facilities into rental houses.  

Kenya Private Schools Association (KPSA) chief executive Peter Ndoro has revealed that about 136 schools have closed business  permanently. 

“The 136 schools have left at least 45,000 learners without an institution. This is a huge challenge, especially to candidates who had already registered for national examinations,” said Ndoro.

A spot check by the People Daily in Nairobi and Mombasa counties established that a considerable number of private schools had either been converted into residential homes  or farms.  

In Nairobi, for instance, the proprietor of  Whistling Thorn School in Kawangware’s Dagoretti North Constituency has converted the institution into residential houses.

The  apartments include 15 one-bed roomed houses each going for Sh15,000. 

The proprietor, Violet Waweru, said despite her school having a population of over 100 pupils, she decided to close it completely after the Covid-19 outbreak in March.

“The school had Pre-primary to Class Six. With more than 15 rooms, we have redesigned them into one-bed roomed houses, and each goes for Sh15,000 a month,” she added.

The school  fee was about Sh6,000 per term for Pre-primary and Sh8,000 for Class Five and Six learners. 

Waweru said following the Covid-19 challenges, she was forced to redeploy some of her teachers to take up other roles.

Kenya Private Schools Association chief executive officer Peter Ndoro. Photo/PD/file

Among those affected include Martha Mwaura and Nasir Kirui. They have been  teachers at the institution for the last three years.

They were forced to take up other roles to enable them continue earning an income. 

 Mwaura, a teacher by profession, is now the caretaker of the new residential houses  whose roles include issuing receipts and addressing complaints and issues raised by tenants, some of whom were parents in the same school.

“Teaching is a calling. I will surely pick up the pieces and take a chalk to teach after all these Corona disruptions are over,” she said.

So far, 10 tenants have  already occupied the houses and renovations were ongoing in the remaining houses.

“It came to a point where the owner decided to venture into real estate after the school business became untenable.

I am concerned about the fate of the learners who were schooling in such institutions and the pressure on the parents to look for new schools,” she said.

Kirui, who used to be a Science teacher is now a casual labourer whose new role is to paint the classrooms being refurbished into houses. 

“I have been here for years. I am now painting and doing other menial jobs to earn a living.

As a father, I have to work to fend for my family. I used to earn Sh15,000 a month but now I am earning Sh1,000 a day though not on a regular basis,” he added. 

Currently,  there are about 3,000 non-formal schools countrywide translating into over 300,000 learners. 

There are 600 private schools in Mombasa County with a population of 30,000 learners while Nairobi has about 1,000 schools with over 100,000 learners.

In an interview with People Daily, Ndoro expressed optimism over the government’s move to bail out the affected private school, but at the same time expressed concern that closure of the schools will add pressure on public institutions, which are already stretched.

Provides package

“We had presented our proposal to the government requesting for a Sh7 billion stimulus package. So far we have made headways. The government has committed to provide the package.

We are working together on modalities of how it will be distributed,” he added.

In Coast, the situation is the same as teachers and workers from non-formal schools operating under Alternative Provision to Basic Education and Training (APBET) have been forced to innovate other ways of earning a living.  

Richard Olando, the proprietor of Friends School Kongowea, a community institution located at the informal settlement in Maweni area of Nyali sub-county, has been converted into a farm.

“We have planted cowpeas and pawpaws fruits in our playground so that we can manage a small income to pay our two workers,” said Olando.

The community school, which serves most of the middle-income families around Kongowea, is now left at the mercy of the small green farm to pay for the employees. 

Olando says the school is ready to reopen should the government allow them to serve the community. 

 The school is among 300 other non-formal schools in Mombasa, which are staring at tough times ahead of reopening in January as many of them have completely shut, while others have shifted to other economic ventures.

“I have about 185 pupils in my school. The institution was established 2001 and has met all the guidelines.

If the government does not cushion us from Covid-19 effects, then the learners will continue missing out on a lot,” said Olando. 

The school has 10 teachers certified by the Teachers Service Commission.

Nicholas Kililo, the Executive director of Mombasa Royal Park Academy, a school with more than 250 pupils located in  Vikwatani, says the school has often posted outstanding  results in national examinations. 

“Our schools play critical roles  in preventing vulnerable girls and boys from social vices. If they are not considered by the plan, then it means the pupils will miss on their right to education,” said Kililo.

APBET schools officials on the other hand have raised concern that they have been left out in the community-based learning rooms. 

APBET National Secretary Juma Lubambo says both private and public schools were closed due to Covid-19, but the recent plan by the government on community-based learning only targets public institutions.

“We are appealing to the government to consider us in the programme because most of the informal settlements do not have teachers employed by TSC  within.

APBET schools are community-owned and have been unable to conduct online learning programmes. 

They are also said to accommodate a huge number of pupils from middle-income families. 

The schools are yet to get any funding from the government to improve on their learning activities. 

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