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A business worth studying

The $35 million investment in new Karen school raises eyebrows among the private school fraternity

uilt on a 17-acre plot in Karen at a construction cost $35 million, the GEMS Cambridge School is already monumental, and will be even more so upon completion. None of the fancy turrets of Brookhouse School, which it shares a road with but at just two months old, every classroom is equipped with interactive whiteboards (Sh250,000 without projector) and construction is ongoing on the Olympic Committee approved 400m allweather running track, swimming pool, tennis court, School Hall with state of the art acoustics, synthetic garden grass from Belgium to create safe outdoor play spaces and spacious dormitories. An extremely stringent quality control system has also been implemented at the Nairobi GEMS school, with all furniture and equipment being imported from markets such as Dubai, including school uniforms. Our uniforms are also imported from Dubai, and they will be stocked in the school, said Mr Raminder Vig, Chief Academic Ocer for GEMS Africa. They will not be available from a local distributor so that we can police the quality of the items. And Kenya is just the first of the African markets that the international chain of schools is targeting. Construction of a sister institution in Kampala has already begun and will herald expansion into other African markets by 2014. By these gures, education in Kenya (as a launching pad for Africa) is a business worth investing in. But GEMS world class facilities, gleaned from over 15 years in the education sector in India, Dubai and the UK, arent cheap. Developed on the third tier of an education model (which has four levels), the school targets households that can aord school fees for one child of between
| Nairobi Business Monthly November

Our uniforms are also imported from Dubai so that we can police the quality of the items
Sh464,100 to Sh1,947,400 annually. And with just eight weeks under its belt, it has already enrolled 58 students and by the start of the new term in January 2013, will be at 70. Within the 20 km area of the school, there are 50,000 households which have a salary of USD 5,000 or more, said Mr Vig after glancing up at the large white board in his oce which had hand written notes. That said, the main target for GEMS is the international market which contains a cross section of auent children from all backgrounds and races.

Raminder Vig, the Chief Academic Ocer for GEMS Africa

Twelve nationalities are currently represented at GEMS including students from Malawi and Uganda. Based around 15 kms from the city centre, Mr Vig said, Our choice of location was dictated by availability of land. The school has entered into a 30 year lease agreement for a 17 acre plot with a property company in Mombasa. We will give it 3 to 4 years for a return on the investment, and quickly added, But this is not a y by night. We have a permanent investment for 30 years, and now we are looking at Uganda, Tanzania, then the West Coast. After construction of the school and its facilities is complete, the highest ticket item will be sta costs. The school, which oers IGCSEs and caters to children from age 3 to age 14 (but plans to oer A levels thus catering to children

of age 18), is staed with 22 teachers, which will ultimately cater for a fully stocked school of 200 students with the student teacher ratio holding constant at approximately 15:1 (with the ratio increasing/ decreasing as the age of the student rises). It includes local Kenyan teachers, and teachers from Britain and America. The Kenyan market poses some unique challenges to GEMS and for this reason it has adopted a two pronged approach. First, it intends to integrate the best of local and international and to this end has implemented a skills exchange program between teachers trained in Britain and in Kenya. The 844 education system is product based while the British system is process based, he said, so we are working with Kenyan teachers to develop a model to enhance childrens education. Second, it is in the process of creating an advisory committee comprised of local educationalists and sector leaders to guide its development as a school that is suited to the needs of Kenyan children. The Chairman and founder of GEMS, Sunny Varkey, is a career educationalist who started the GEMS schools in 1968 as a family run business. Today, it boasts over 100,00 students in 140 countries. Described as a visionary entrepreneur, Mr Varkey continues to play a strong leadership role in guiding the growth and character of each school. The Kenyan venture is being championed by Mr Vig, a Tanzanian born educationalist who moved to the United Kingdom at a young age and has undertaken various education related projects in the UK and Dubai. The GEMS school operates on a 4 model structure from Westminster (lowest), to Cambridge, to Wellington, to GEMS Academy (highest) with every level attracting higher fees. According to Mr Vig, GEMS is considering introducing a model lower than Westminster which is able to support Africa. Huge masses of children cannot aord USD 15,000 a year but they deserve the best education, and so we may introduce an educational system at a cost of around USD 1,000 a year or between USD 500 and USD 3,000 a year, he said. The cost reduction strategy for such a model will compromise on the amount of land and resources available but education cannot be compromised, Mr Vig said. It will be GEMS rst adventure into low cost schools.

Tuition fees for top private schools in Kenya (per term)

ISK GEMS Peponi Kenton Brookhouse Braeburn Hillcrest from Sh527,800 from Sh464,000 from Sh392,500 from Sh355,000 from Sh300,000 from Sh280,000 from Sh203,500


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