St Bakhita schools parents move to court opposing fee increment

School fees increase.

St Bakhita Primary and Junior Secondary sign board. 

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • Parents argue that varying the fees midway through the year left them with little or no bargaining power.
  • The school says it has discretion to increase fees.

More than 1,000 parents of St Bakhita Schools in Nairobi have returned to court after failing to agree with the management over plans to revise the fees upwards.

Appearing before Justice Christine Meoli on Tuesday, the parents said the learning of the children might be disrupted midterm as the management has given them one month to pay the revised fees.

The parents argue that varying the fees midway through the year left them with little or no bargaining power since a notice of three weeks, issued to them, was insufficient to re-adjust their financial plans or transfer their children to other schools.

A fee structure seen by Business Daily indicate that Grade 6 parents will be required to pay Sh85,479 for tuition fee up from Sh69,495 per term. For transport, the parents will be paying Sh24,449 up from Sh23,458, while for stationery they will pay Sh3,200 from Sh2,525.

For co-curriculum activities, those in the dance club will have to pay twice the amount from Sh3,000 to Sh6,000. Parents for Grade 2 pupils will pay Sh82,516 for tuition fees up from Sh68,195.

The management, however, opposed the grant of any order stating that a majority of the parents had already paid the new fees.

“It is the plaintiffs’ (parents) contention that the defendants (school management) have taken advantage of being the party with stronger bargaining power in their contractual relationship. The strong party in a contractual relationship should not be allowed to steamroll over the weaker party,” the parents said through their lawyer Charles Mwalimu.

Justice Meoli directed the parties to file their submissions ahead of the hearing on May 27.

Seven parents who sued on behalf of 1,000 others said they entered into contracts with St Bakhita Schools Ltd, which runs St Bakhita Daycare and Kindergarten and St Bakhita Junior Secondary School.

The petition has been supported by the Parents-Teachers Association.

In an affidavit, Mr Martin Mutua, one of the parents, said that for the past 20 years, the management has maintained a policy of fee increment every two years.

And since the last increment was in Term I of 2023, they had a legitimate expectation that the next fee increment would take effect from Term I of 2025.

He added that the contract is pre-negotiated at the start of every school year through a fee structure for the year which is accepted by the parents on the understanding that it would not be varied before the end of two academic years.

However, on April 9, 2024, a few days before the re-opening of school after the April holiday, the schools issued invoices that reflected an increase of transport fees with a margin of 40 to 41 percent, tuition fees with a margin of 20 to 21 percent and co-curriculum activities with a margin of 20 to 40 percent, depending on the particular co-curriculum activity.

Mr Mwalimu submitted that under the contracts, the parents are required to give at least one term’s notice in case a parent intends to transfer their children from any of the schools.

He added it was reasonably expected that the management had a reciprocal obligation to give them a one-term notice before increasing school fees.

Mr Mwalimu maintained that the pre-contract information given at the start of every year is binding for two years, and any changes made would necessarily need engagement, justifiable reason, and notice of at least one school term consent.

Ms Feslista Muthoki Mutuku, the director of the schools, defended the fee increment saying the board of management resolved on March 28, to increase the fees upwards due to high and rising overhead costs, driven by inflation and other factors.

She said the increase is a discretion allowed to the school management as per clause 10 of the terms and conditions.

“That it is not true that the management has abused the discretion but it has always been open to accommodate and engage the parents on the issue,” she said in a statement.

Through lawyer Dr Wilfred Mutubwa, the school said a majority of the parents have paid the revised fees and granting the orders sought will prejudice other parties not before the court.

He added that the management was willing to accommodate any parent on a payment plan.

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