Education

EXCLUSIVE: Uncertainty as Parents Drag Aga Khan School to Court over Fees, Hygiene

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Students at Aga Khan School in Kampala

Parents of students at Aga Khan School (International Division) in Kampala have dragged the internationally reputed institution to Kampala High Court, protesting what they described as an “excessive” and “unjustified” fees hike.

On June 23, 2017 Aga Khan Education Services (AKES) increased school fees for the year 2017/18.

A student in Year 1-2 will pay Shs 3.7m per term while those in Year 3 to Year 6 will fork out Shs 4.7m per term.

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Students in the International Baccalaureate (IB2) class who have been paying Shs 6.2m will shell out Shs 8.5m every term.

Yet, two years ago, students in the same class were paying Shs 3m.

According to parents, this implied an increase in the tuition fees of 100 percent in the last two years and 50 percent in June 2017.

Led by Eng Danish Dulo and Florence Obua, parents claim the hike was done without “just cause” and that the decision “followed and was in addition to an earlier decision to increase fees by almost 200 percent over a period of two years.”

In what could leave the prestigious school with an egg on the face, parents further claimed the institution is grappling with a poor “teacher student ratio; use of one teacher to teach all the four subjects in one stream without a second teacher or helper and a broken down sanitary and healthcare system.”

They further accused the school administration of “misuse and abuse of school fees and massive corruption in requests for kickbacks from suppliers of the school; shoddy infrastructure and failure to establish a Parent Teachers Association.”

The parents said they were taking legal action as means of “enforcing and obtaining justice” against the institution’s “bullish attitude” and “actions of impunity.”

They said allowing the news fees structure to stand would lead to an embarrassment by expulsion of children for nonpayment of “exorbitant fees.”

Schools speaks out

However, the school’s headteacher, Emmanuel Ndoori said in his circular, dated June 23, to parents, that the increment was meant to cater for the “welfare of staff” and “purchase of resources.”

Officials further said the increment was necessary to avert staff attrition to other schools and that 70 percent of the money goes into teachers’ welfare especially remuneration.

The development comes against a huge public outcry that private schools continue to increase their fees as relevant authorities look on idly.

While the Education Ministry has issued warnings against fees hikes, school owners are yet to take heed.

Parents who talked to ChimpReports said the situation at Aga Khan School remains tense as the administration struggles to convince parents to tow its line.

Parents on Monday morning said they had renewed their total refusal to pay any fees until the school enters a “mutually respectfully dialogue” that is mediated by a third party.

In a recent letter to parents, the administration explained that the fees have remained “affordable in comparison to other Kampala based private schools offering the same curriculum,” adding, “The recent series of fees increases have gone towards essential upgrading investments at the school.”

The administration said parents could continue to have the confidence that AKES undertakes audits of its business and maintains a zero tolerance to any malpractice.

In 2014, according to administrators, the school was stunned seeing teachers move to other international programme comparator schools.

They decided that retention of strong teachers and providing a stable learning environment for children was paramount.

Parents were also informed that due to the “Need to attract and retain effective teachers in a very competitive market, we placed emphasis on upgrading of international teachers’ remuneration over a period of three years.”

The increased fees saw a very successful drop in teacher turnover rate drop from 17 percent in 2014 to only 1 percent in 2017.

“This means that the teaching community at the school is now stable and is providing your children with a sense of consistency when they come to school which is important for their learning,” said the school’s interim country manager, Fred Tukahirwa.

Tukahirwa said the past two years have seen investments in repairs and maintenance, including external and interior painting of the school, installation of improved lighting in the classrooms, furniture upgrades, installation of a high quality water purification system, installation of CCTV system and electrical re-cabling.

Circular announcing increment in tuition fees

Circular announcing increment in tuition fees

He further promised improved washroom facilities, a newly surfaced basketball court and a reinforced perimeter to the school to protect all from unwanted intruders.

Tuukahirwa went ahead to pledge that the school would drop textbook charges and also allow parents to stagger their payments over nine monthly installments.

Scholarship schemes and subsidy for students representing the school in various competitions abroad will be introduced, according to Tukahirwa and that canteen operations would be streamlined to ensure a “healthy and balanced menu.”

He also promised to introduce a necessary forum for “timely consultations” between the school leadership and parents.

Hygiene

But parents said they have for the last three years been complaining that Aga Khan School lacks clean toilets, up-to-date canteen and dining area for children; well stocked library, computer and chemistry laboratories, desks and chairs in the upper level classes and pigeon holes for storage of school bags by students.

Other issues are filthy washrooms which have left girl children vulnerable to urinary tract infections at tender ages, diet issues leading to repeated illnesses, worn out rest foams and rugs at the nursery school.

They further protested the sewerage that spills over in the playing field during heavy rains.

“We find our children in difficulty and while the UPE / USE section is up to standard and paying little school fees; the International Division is not even near the basic standard of an ordinary school,” said one of the parents during a recent meeting at Kati Kati Restaurant in Kampala.

They faulted the school for inadequate transport facilities, citing a case where Year 8 students used a minibus with worn out tyres for a trip to Mbarara.

Other issues include worn out sports gear for students, filthy and poorly kept kits for soccer and basketball teams, dusty parking area, harsh treatment of students, exam leakage and poor communication between school management and parents.

The parents are also angry as the term course outline is not completed by end of term which causes panic for both parents and students

“The Aga Khan School Kampala is collapsing in terms of welfare, infrastructure and academic intelligence which brings the big question: Is the school being run by the right management?” another parent wondered during the Kati Kati meeting.

Academics

But Tukahirwa said AKES Students have continued to perform exceptionally well in Cambridge international General Certificate Education (IGCSE) with the world average of 70 percent.

The percentage of students attaining 5A* – C Grades in 2013 were 83 percent, according to statistics provided by the school.

In 2014, the number rose to 84 percent and in 2016, the school got 83 percent.

Tukahirwa said in 2016, one of AKES students obtained the highest mark in the world in his exam on Environment Management.

He asserted the School has also seen steady improvement in the IBPD.

The IBPD Programme sets the global standard in High School education.

It’s the premium entrance qualification to universities around the world, recognised for its academic integrity, range, and the high level of study skills each student must develop to succeed.

Tukahirwa said this year, the IBPD exam grade was 33/45 marks, the highest ever attained by the school and that this average is well above the global world average of 29/45 marks.

“The Aga Khan High School, Kampala is now positioned as one of the best performing IBDP Schools across East Africa,” he assured.

However, parents responded by rejecting the “attempt to match the current and future fees charged by a non-profit making, non tax -paying school with those of profit-making, tax-paying schools. This is a benchmark we don’t accept.”

The school was built on public school and has an understanding with government not to pay taxes since it’s not a profit-making institution.

In their letter to the administration, parents reiterated their “collective and firm refusal to pay either the old or new fees until this fees hike is withdrawn in writing and new bank slips are issued to all parents charge the old fees.”

Declarations

In court, parents want a declaration that the Board of Governors Aga Khan Education Services is improperly constituted and so exercising its mandated.

The parents further demand an order removing the record and decision of Aga Khan to increase the schools fees and declaring it “null and void and of no effect.”

They also want management to form a Parents Teachers Association and Management Committee with two duly elected parents to sit on the board of governors.

The parents also have asked court to declare management’s refusal to hold a meeting with parents to review the fees structure and increase as “illegal, irrational and illogical.”

They further seek a declaration that the decision to increase the term fees without approval of the minister of education and sports and prescription by a properly constituted bard is illegal.

The parents also called for an investigation and audit of the school’s books and records within the 30 days and an injunction restraining Aga Khan from expelling the children from their education institution for their refusal to pay the increased school fees and to unconditionally reopen their school for the new term year stating August 28, 2017.

The parents said they are no longer getting value for money and that the administration should not have switched from Cambridge to SATs without their involvement as at the time of joining the school, parents knew they were signing for Cambridge.

“The applicants are entitled to enforce their constitutional right to educate their children who should not stand to suffer by expulsion from school as it opens on 28th and that the school plans to enforce the impugned outrageous fees hikes for the next two years and longer,” reads the application.

However, one of the parents, Edgar Tabaro told ChimpReports that “to have quality education, you need a policy for attracting and retaining good teachers.”

A lawyer by profession and Constitutional law lecturer, Tabaro said retaining high quality teachers requires a good pay and incentives such as free education for their children at the same school.

“Fee increment is bound to be invariably the first option,” said Tabaro.

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