GEMS to invest Sh2bn to expand Kenyan unit

GEMS International School along Magadi Road, January 17, 2019. /EZEKIEL AMING'A
GEMS International School along Magadi Road, January 17, 2019. /EZEKIEL AMING'A

Education group GEMS plans to put up five middle-range schools in Nairobi at a cost of $20 million (Sh2 billion) in an expansion drive.

The group that already runs the GEMS Cambridge International School in Nairobi said this is in addition to the acquisition of Hillcrest International Schools valued at slightly above Sh1.3 billion.

Sources within the Dubai based group disputed the Sh2.6 billion value said to have been paid for the Hillcrest acquisition as widely reported in the local press.

Hillcrest which has a student population of 500 is expected to be merged with GEMS Cambridge International School subject to the Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) approval.

In an exclusive interview with the Star yesterday, GEMS Education regional director (Africa) Ernest Mureithi said the expansion plan is part of the consortium’s objective of ensuring quality and affordable education globally.

“Apart from additional middle-range schools, we plan to set up low cost Kenyan curriculum schools charging between Sh20,000 to Sh40,000 per year from 2020. We are living up to our ‘no child left behind’ mantra,’’ Mureithi said.

He said the low-cost Dream Africa Education schools have been received well in Uganda.

The group is also planning to open Regis Runda school built on 26 acres with a capacity of 2,000 students next January.

GEMS’s expansion strategy in Kenya, only seven years after it first set foot in Kenya demonstrates growing appetite by international investors in the country’s rich private school segment.

According to the Kenya Revenue Authority, top 25 private schools in the country have combined annual revenue of at least Sh10 billion, charging students up to Sh2 million per year.

According to Mureithi, Kenya’s fast-growing middle-income demographic is pushing up the demand for quality education.

He added that the world is fast moving towards competency-based Curriculum from contemporary systems like 8-4-4 hence driving demand for quality oriented institutions.

Increased demand for private education has attracted new players in the market including Nova Pioneer which opened at Tatu City in Kiambu County in 2016.

Last year, Centum Investment announced plans to invest Sh1 billion to expand Sabis International School in Runda.