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Why fees in Nairobi-based international schools are falling

A comparative analysis shows charges are down 14 per cent on average this year  compared to 2017 but remain double the cost of Cape Town, South Africa institutions   

People Repoerter @PeopleDailyKe

An influx of foreign academies in Nairobi and ongoing expansion of well-established international schools in the country has forced fees down this year compared to last year.

The average fees charged by Nairobi-based international schools has dropped to $752  (Sh76,000) per month for a six-year-old child due to growing competition for students from the rising number of learning institutions. This is a 14 per cent drop compared to the $875 (Sh88,375) per month charged in 2017.

An analysis by the International Schools Database shows monthly fees charged in Nairobi however remain almost double those charged in Cape Town, South Africa, which on average is charging $375 (Sh37,875) per month. The fees exclude one-off expenses such as admission and construction charges for new pupils.

The report says the most expensive international schools are in Shangai, China at $ 2,744 (Sh277,144) per month while academies in Zurich, Switzerland are charging an average of $2,227 (Sh224, 927) per month for the six-year-old child.

“Some names within the 10 cheapest cities may surprise you… a lot. Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Abu Dhabi are still some of the least expensive cities for international education, as they were in 2017,” reads the report.

This year three of the richest economies in the Middle East join them; Qatar’s capital Doha, Bahrain’s capital Manama and Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh are the fifth, fourth and ninth cheapest cities, respectively.

International schools in Kenya exploit the high premium that parents attach on their children’s education to charge some of the highest fees in Africa. The academies, many of them offering western curricula, charge high fees reflecting the perception that education is a golden ticket to better fortunes among many Kenyans.

A new study dubbed Next Generation Report released recently by the British Council shows that while many youths agree that Kenya’s education system is on a springboard, they said it cannot match that offered in western countries. About 38 per cent insisted that one must move to either United States or United Kingdom to get quality university education.

Of those interviewed, 71 per cent said they were willing to relocate to western countries for better lives, especially to access better education opportunities. The rising use of Internet technology was found to be the main influencer of the youths’ desire to go majuu (overseas).

Local and foreign investors keen to tap into the lucrative international schools enterprise are increasingly finding Kenya a preferable destination despite the cutthroat competition amongst the steady rising number of these institutions that target the rich.

New players include Nova Pioneer and Sabis International School, a Sh2 billion investment that is partly owned by Centum Investments. Headquartered in Beirut, Lebanon, Sabis has a network of schools in 16 countries including the US, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates.

High returns in the education sector have also attracted private equity firms, leading to multi-billion- shilling transactions. AfricInvest, for instance, was among a group of investors that sold Brookhouse School to UK-based PE fund Educas for an estimated Sh3.6 billion in 2015. Brookhouse has opened a new campus in Runda that sits on 15 acres.

South Africa’s private education firm Advtech will open a school under its Crawford Schools brand in Kiambu’s Tatu City in September. The school has promised to charge lower fees than most international schools.

Advtech  has also acquired the Makini Group of Schools, to end a 40-year ownership by proprietor Mary Okelo. Makini comprises eight schools in four centres in Nairobi and Kisumu that caters for 3,200 students from kindergarten to Grade 12.

As the expatriate community in Kenya continues to grow, the International School of Kenya (ISK) in Nairobi in 2015 opened a newly constructed Elementary School, which features spacious modern kindergarten classrooms. 

Launching the school, the then Canadian High Commissioner to Kenya, David Angell said ISK, whose motto is Empowering Students to Create Solutions for Tomorrow’s challenges, is a magnet for the families of the world’s top diplomats, CEOs and academics.

Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission, Paul Sutphin represented outgoing US Ambassador to Kenya, Robert Godec. Both Angell and Sutphin gave credence to friends of ISK, thanking the US and Kenyan-based architects as well as the teams who have worked tirelessly toward the project.

The new facility is part of an 11-phase US$ 40million (Sh4 billion) capital investment programme embarked on in 2011 to ensure ISK becomes a leading world-class international school.  On completion of the master plan, 1,200 pupils in grades Pre-K to Grade 12 will be accommodated. As a result, ISK, which has students from more than 65 countries, will continue to help attract corporate and development organisations to Kenya.

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