Parents Complain as Schools Get Creative With Virtual Costs

  • File image of a child undertaking a quiz online
    File image of a child undertaking a quiz online
  • Many parents who have had their children attending online classes for the past five months have had to deal with, sometimes, questionable charges.

    This is the case, particularly, for various private schools which have been offering virtual classes since the school year was cancelled.

    On Monday, August 24, a poster that went viral indicated that a leading private school was charging parents for their children to attend a three-day virtual trip of the Coast region.

    To many, the cost seemed exorbitant as they would only be shown videos of various cultural activities and sites via Zoom. It is not the only cost, however, that schools have introduced as part of their online learning packages.

    Shay*, who has a daughter in one of the high-end private schools in Syokimau, Machakos County told what a typical online learning day looked like for her 7-year old.

    File image of a child in a virtual class
    File image of a child in a virtual class

    "For the lower primary school kids they do three classes each day from Monday to Friday. They also have several other events and activities which are factored into the cost like daily virtual assemblies, award ceremonies and closing days," she revealed.

    Virtual Graduation

    She noted that many parents at the school were happy as the monthly cost of the classes was significantly cheaper than what they would have paid for a three-month school term. She revealed, however, that some parents were not happy with the add-on features and only wanted to pay for classes.

    "A good example is a recent virtual PTA meeting, there was a big fight over whether or not children entering Grade 1 should have a virtual graduation, the school wanted parents to pay for it. They were arguing that they will need to create a proper setup and stream an actual ceremony, at one point even delivery of gowns and caps was suggested.

    "A lot of parents did not welcome the idea. They opposed it, and as we speak they haven't yet decided whether the graduation will be done and whether they will pay," she stated.

    While several schools have offered affordable rates for the online classes, others have gotten in trouble with parents for charging almost as much as they did before the pandemic for virtual classes.

    The most publicised scenario was witnessed at the high-end Brookhouse School, where a section of parents launched a court battle protesting the cost of the virtual classes.

    Parents had argued that they were being charged full school fees despite the obvious differences between in-person and virtual learning. In addition, they challenged the quality of the online classes.

    Return of Tuition 

    A common trend that has been taken up by many Kenyan parents during the pandemic is forming small groups and hiring teachers to undertake online classes for their children.

    This has especially been preferred for those with children in schools that haven not introduced online classes or have been charging exorbitant fees for them.

    Stella*, a mother with a child in a private school in Lang'ata, Nairobi joined one such program and told how it works.

    "A lot of parents from the school rejected their classes, and some of them like me organised themselves in small groups. In my group, I am mostly with parents from the same estate.

    "Our children are candidates so we did not want them falling behind. We appointed a co-ordinator who found three teachers, and we contribute monthly to pay them. We have a WhatsApp group where we communicate any issues and discuss progress," she revealed.

    While the government had announced that schools would remain closed until January 2021, Magoha has since revised his position stating that learning institutions could be re-opened early if the curve was flattened.

    Parents continue to have to figure out how to keep their children engaged and learning amid confusion surrounding the education calendar.

    Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha assesses Grade 3 learning at Joy Town Special School in Thika in September 2019