The attitude of glee with which Kenyans on social media are regarding the dispute over school fees between parents and the administration at Brookhouse School, is tempered with the unrealistic projection that it is a situation of ‘them, not us'. On that one they are wrong!
The dispute, unfortunately, is one of a multitude of the result of poor governance that have been bestowed on the Kenyan people by consecutive poor political administrations. As corruption and greed remain at the centre of our governance and capitalism is made a tool of political operations, key services which are supposed to be primarily the responsibility of government, such as education, health and sanitation continue to be badly neglected and left to individuals to cope the best way they know how.
The public has therefore been forced to seek various solutions in the private sector. These efforts have often proved to be is not only foolhardy, but also a sure way to entrench permanently the effects of poor governance, increase inequality, enhance social discrimination and destroy the very foundations of the Kenyan society or the foundation on which Wanjiku builds her life.
Kenyans need to challenge the government to improve these services, as part of its core responsibilities. Seeking capitalism-based solutions is a temporary avenue that only works when there are no changes in the world. Yet the only constant thing in life is change.
It is also shocking to see these seekers demand the kind of accountability that they have been unable to get from government which uses their tax money, from investors whose sources of equity they did not partake in guaranteeing.
Such solutions do not only disadvantage those who are not capable of seeking such expensive solutions, but also the children of those who can afford it, as they may not necessarily be getting an education, even if their systems are not disrupted by the pandemic.
The Brookhouse school dispute should be a clear realisation for parents that the aim of private schools is to maximise profits because they are business enterprises. The needs of any child on the other hand is access to and the transfer of knowledge.
The business model of private schools clearly is first class, but the education model has been exposed to be severely wanting. The prestige and bragging rights that parents think they enjoy may not be worth the price they and their children have to pay, especially in unusual times.
All the extras that come with these schools such sporting facilities, musical instruments, kitchens for practicals must be maintained and serviced, weather in use or not. This cost, logically falls on the users, current and future.
In any dispute there will be two sides of an argument. In the case of education, the parents who represent the children would be pitted against the school and administration and owners or investors. When there are parents who chose to understand the administrative side better, the dispute is no longer about education but classism. The failure to sympathise with fellow parents is just a way of defining class boundaries, which is a reflection of another serious issue affecting our society.
In a decent and functional society, no one should have to pay a premium for health, education, food, water or sanitation unless they want to. The pandemic has merely reminded Kenyans that we have a cardinal responsibility to rescue ourselves by mending our political administration.
Running to court is alright, everyone deserves a fair hearing, but courts cannot coerce a business enterprise to follow a social rather than capitalist model. It is also important to note that schools that follow a British system have a curriculum that cannot really be regulated or enforced by the education Act which is currently struggling with its own model.
And, still on regulatory struggles in education, why are those who need quarantine being isolated in schools? What happened to the buildings which served as district hospitals? Now that we cannot congregate in churches, wouldn't it have been more logical to quarantine the sick in those massive buildings than in schools, where Kenyan children should resume learning at the first given opportunity?