Education: Parents seek CS Magoha help in dispute

By , K24 Digital
On Tue, 20 Aug, 2019 08:00 | 4 mins read
A section of the prestigious Makini Schools. The institution is embroiled in a dispute that threatens its future. Photo/PD/COURTESY

The management and Parents Teachers Association (PTA) of Makini School, one of the leading private institutions in Nairobi, are embroiled in a dispute that threatens its the future.

The deteriorating relations between the two entities have given rise to accusations and counter-accusations as each side defends its position, with the managers threatening to seek legal redress.

The parents accuse the new owners of putting profit first and running down the school, which, they claim, has lost an estimated 500 students in the last two terms.

The raging dispute has been escalated to Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha, with parents asking him to intervene and save the institution. 

“We write to you as the PTA of Makini School that represents over 1,000 parents and over 1,700 students to seek an appointment with you to address serious challenges that the school is facing.

As you may be aware, in late 2017 the then owners of the school entered into a secret financial deal that sold Makini School to a foreign private entity firm known as the Schole,” the PTA says in a letter to the CS.

No experience

“Our interaction with the new management in the last one year and our preliminary research about this firm shows that the management is not only new in the education business but lacks capacity and the know-how and requisite skills to run a school of Makini’s calibre. Fundamentally, the management’s approach to education matters is at discrepancy with the Kenya’s education framework.”

The PTA says that efforts to engage the management in dialogue to resolve the issue had twice failed after the managers snubbed them.

However, in a rejoinder, the management accuses the parents of playing a central role in feeding the ministry and the public with “false and malicious information to the detriment of Makini Schools”.

Earlier this month, Makini Schools chief executive officer Adams Nichols wrote to PTA officials regretting that his attempts to meet them to establish a positive working relationship had not borne fruit.

“In the face of the hostility and negativity we are experiencing, I must make you aware that we are consulting our lawyers on some of the comments made in the recent online article and in the alleged letter to Ministry of Education, since we believe this amounts to defamation,” Nichols said in a letter to PTA members, dated August 5.

He said the PTA had not set out to him or the management team concerns and issues alluded to in their communication.

Withdraw learners

Parents who spoke to the People Daily and sought anonymity for fear of exposing their children to victimisation, said a considerable number of them are considering withdrawing their children from the school that had exemplary exam performances over the years.

The bad blood started after the PTA accused the management of turning Makini into a profit-driven entity as opposed to maintaining high academic standards.

The PTA also feels that some members of staff have been unfairly targeted, especially those who have been in the institution for a long time, some of whom have moved to court over their sacking.

It has also emerged that teachers handling this year’s national exam candidates have not been spared either and parents are worried about their performance in the examinations due in two months.     

It is against this backdrop that PTA officials wrote to Magoha last month asking him to intervene before the issue gets out of hand.  

Yet another bone of contention are reports of an impending closure of one of the campuses over alleged rent arrears.

Reports indicate that if the school is closed at the end of the year as alleged, the academic life of more than 260 students will be disrupted. 

The management has disputed this claim.

Last month, PTA officials said the ongoing restructuring and redundancy of teachers and staff had caused tension and anxiety in the school, which is detrimental to learning atmosphere.

“Regrettably, the biggest stakeholders comprising parents, teachers and staff were neither consulted nor involved in the whole exercise.

The PTA, therefore, resolved in July 26 meeting to request the management to suspend the whole exercise, recall all letters already issued to the affected to allow for proper consultations for the intended restructuring and reorganisation,” a PTA memo seen by this newspaper reads.

“I am writing to express my extreme concern at the continued deterioration in relations between PTAC and Makini’s management and owners.

I want to make it absolutely clear–contrary to what I understand some of you may have been told – that I and the rest of the management team have made strenuous efforts to engage with the PTA to discuss the re-organisation we recently carried out,” said Nichols in response to the PTA.

Referring to a situation where the Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions, Hospitals and Allied Workers (KUDHEIHA) is supporting a group of staff to take the school to the Employment and Labour Relations Court to challenge their redundancy, Nichols said the action is “entirely groundless”, insisting that the management followed relevant employment laws in restructuring.

Legal action

“We know from staff testimonials that members of the PTA have been actively encouraging Makini staff to take legal action against the school. As you can imagine, I was extremely shocked when I received these reports from some of the staff affected–several of whom have subsequently asked for their names to be removed from the action,” says Nichols.

“As we approach Term Three of the academic calendar, we kindly request that we be allowed to focus on our core priority of preparing learners for the national examinations and assessments and further improving school facilities,” he added.