St Bakhita schools parents move to court over fee increment

Justice Christine Meoli on Tuesday scheduled a hearing for the case on May 27.

St Bakhita schools parents move to court over fee increment

A legal dispute has brewed between St Bakhita Schools and a section of parents after a hike in fees.

Justice Christine Meoli on Tuesday scheduled a hearing for the case on May 27.

The disagreement stems from the school's management's decision to revise fees upwards and a failure to agree with parents over the plans.

Through their lawyer Charles Mwalimu, at least 1,000 parents expressed worry that the learning of their children might be disrupted due to the fee increment.

They argued that varying fees midway through the year has left them with little to no power to bargain on the same.

This is because a three-week notice issued which they termed as insufficient, did not allow them to re-adjust their financial plans or transfer their children to other schools.

They said the alternative decisions are "not practically possible" at this time of the year.

Justice Meoli heard that the school's management has given the parents one month to pay the revised 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," Mwalimu told the court.

The parents have sued St Bakhita Schools Limited, St Bakhita Daycare and Kindergarten Limited, St Bakhita Junior Secondary School Limited and St Bakhita Holdings Limited.

On its part, however, the management urged the court to not grant any of the sought orders stating that a majority of the parents had already paid the new fees.

Lawyer Wilfred Mutubwa who is representing the school said granting the orders would prejudice other parties not before the court.

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

The school defended its decision saying on March 28, the board saw it fit to increase the fees due to high and rising overhead costs, driven by inflation and other factors.

"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," a statement by school director Felista Mutuku reads.

The parents now want the court to prohibit the schools from implementing the decision to increase fees as contained in invoices for the year's term two.

They said the management has maintained a policy of fee increments every two academic years for the past 20 years.

Owing to this, the parents stated, that it was their legitimate expectation that the next fee increment would take effect from term one of 2025 since the last increment was in term one of 2023.

They added that the school is obliged to give parents one-term notice before increasing fees as they are also required to give at least the same period if they intend to transfer their child(ren) from the schools.

An affidavit by one of the parents, Martin Mutua, however, stated that 10 days after issuance of the notice and about 22 days after the opening of schools after the April holiday, the schools issued invoices to them.

He said this was done in blatant disregard of the parents’ concerns.

The said invoices reflected an increase of transport fees with a margin of 40-41 per cent, tuition fees with a margin of 20-21 per cent and co-curriculum activities with a margin of 20-40 per cent depending on the particular co-curriculum activity.

Justice Meoli directed the parties to file their submissions ahead of the hearing date.