Kenya’s elite schools have increased fees by up to 25 percent in the past three years despite the Covid-19 pandemic, riding on the high premium parents place on their children’s education.
These schools, most of which offer an international curriculum charge up to Sh3.4 million yearly in tuition per child.
A comparative analysis of select top-notch schools by the Business Daily shows some of them adjusted fees by between five percent and 25 percent between 2019, when Covid struck, and 2022.
International School of Kenya (ISK), tops the list of Nairobi’s exclusive schools with the highest marginal increase of Sh670,441 to Sh3.4 million per year for children in Grade One to Grade Five. This translates to a 25 percent jump.
Parents with kindergarten children at ISK are currently paying Sh3.25 million per year, an Sh633,123 increase in tuition fees compared to what they were paying before the Covid pandemic struck.
The charges make the institution, — owned by the American Embassy and the Canadian High Commission — an exclusive club for wealthy Kenyans and expatriates working for multinationals, missions and non-governmental agencies.
The ISK which offers an American curriculum, boasts expansive compounds, modern libraries and laboratories, quality meals and a wide range of facilities for sporting and extra-curricular activities.
“The fee increase was done to factor in inflation given that schools had not adjusted fees over the past two years owing to the Covid pandemic,” said a parent that sits on one of the school’s boards.
Following closely is Braeburn School charging parents Sh1.5 million per child yearly, an additional Sh171,000 compared to the Sh1.41 million they paid in 2018/2019.
An additional tuition fee of Sh105,200 applies to parents with kindergarten children at Braeburn which has increased the amount to Sh774,400 from the previous Sh668,800.
Braeburn, unlike its competitors, displays its door-to-door transport and lunch charges in its fee structure published online which reflect increases of Sh13,800 and Sh9,300 respectively.
Hillcrest, which currently charges Sh1.8 million in Year Three to Year Five, has increased its tuition fee by five percent or Sh86,100 in the review period.
A similar percentage (or Sh40,800) increase in tuition fees applies to parents with kindergarten children in the school who are now paying an annual fee of Sh852,900 from the previous Sh812,100.
Parents with children in Banda School are currently paying Sh2.08 million in annual fees, up 13 percent or Sh247,050 from the Sh1.8 paid in 2018/19. Those with children in kindergarten at Banda Schools are currently paying Sh907,200, which is Sh97,200 more than the Sh810,000 they paid in 2018/19.
More Kenyan parents are embracing international education to give their children a chance at upward mobility and set them up for admission to top universities abroad.
“Aside from the child getting proper attention, the foreign curriculum is well structured and offers holistic learning capturing aspects such as critical thinking, problem-solving and leadership skills,” said a parent at Laiser Hill Academy situated in Ngong’ Nairobi.
He notes the broader nature of the foreign curriculum offering is the biggest motivation for enrolling his child at the school, as it opens her mind to wider career options.
“I have peace of mind because the classes are not crowded. My child is trained to be creative rather than being bombarded with academics, hence is happier and confident,” said Eddie Olang, a parent.
The International Schools Database survey puts the cost of educating a child below 10 years in Nairobi’s top private schools at Sh1.29 million a year on average, with an average of 19 students a class.
“With an increasing number of middle-class families in Nairobi, enrolling a child in an international school is no longer the preserve of the expatriate community,” said Andrea Robledillo, of the International Schools Database.
This increasing demand has driven the rising number of schools offering foreign curricula with the latest being one of the oldest schools in England, Durham School, which has set base in the leafy suburb of Thigiri.
Dukesbridge, an avant-garde international school that borrows heavily from the Australian Early Years Framework (AYLF), was also recently opened at the heart of Kitisuru, Nairobi.
Rishi Nursimulu, the school’s founder notes that Dukesbridge’s philosophy revolves around “Teaching Happiness”.
“Every day starts with a high-energy morning assembly where children get to jump up and down, dance and have fun in a happy environment. The Australian programme incorporates the key principles of Montessori and has been adapted to embrace the outdoors as an extension of the classroom,” he says.
Unlike in most preparatory school settings, classrooms at Dukesbridge are not cluttered with toys and there are no cartoon characters stuck on the wall.
Instead, there are big outdoor yards with trees where children have structured and unstructured play time, covered balconies and terraces, and specific corners for doll houses and for reading books.