S.5 Students from Kisaasi College report for School
When the government proposed regulations for school fees and requirements, some parents breathed a sigh of relief. Many believed that the regulations were long overdue and would come into effect when schools reopen for the new academic year.
Caleb Kwesigwa says that after reading the proposed guidelines in the newspaper, he was filled with joy and almost danced in gratitude to the government for putting an end to what he called “extortion” by schools.
However, his excitement flew out of the window when he visited his children’s school this week to find out how much he would pay when schools reopen only to discover that the fees had been increased and the list of requirements had equally “grown”.
Kwesigwa is not alone in his disappointment. Our reporter interviewed several other parents who also thought that the guidelines would take effect. Grace Nassiwa, a parent from Kasangati is frustrated and wonders why the government made the regulations in question public if they were not ready for implementation.
Peter Mukasa, another parent says that if the government has problems implementing the regulations on school fees in private schools, they should at least ensure that public and government-aided schools are more affordable and accessible to low-income families.
“This way, even if private schools remain too expensive for many families, we will still have the option to send our children to public or government-aided schools. But the quality of education in those schools should also be addressed,” said Mukasa.
Ali Miwanda, a resident of Salaama shares a similar opinion, saying that high school fees may be preventing many children from accessing school.
Hajjat Rahuma Musa has a divergent view altogether, saying that as the government ponders on regulating school fees, they should first focus on regulating the additional requirements that schools ask of parents, some of which are in-kind and others in monetary terms.
Hajjat Rahuma argues that parents are already paying for tuition and they shouldn’t have to bear the cost of additional items or materials that the schools require. She is also suspicious that some schools use the requirements as a way to extract more money from parents, which may affect the affordability of education for low-income families.
According to the draft guidelines, the ministry proposed that all public and government-aided schools were banned from collecting school fees but were allowed to charge allowable requirements, which were set at a maximum of Shillings 430,000.
The regulations also set maximum fees for private high-end nursery schools at Shillings 690,000 including allowable school requirements. For primary schools, the proposed maximum fees were Shillings 570,000 for day schools and Shillings 1.22 million for boarding schools. Secondary schools were set at Shillings 960,000 for day scholars and Shillings 1.61 million for boarding.
It is important to note that in addition to the maximum fees, the Education Ministry also categorized schools and put a cap for each category. The draft guidelines also emphasized strict channels through, which a school could increase fees such as writing to the Permanent Secretary stating reasons for the increase.
Recently, Dr. Denis Mugimba, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, stated that these guidelines are yet to come into force as they are expected to be discussed by the cabinet. “The minister has been clear that the Education Ministry will first seek cabinet guidance on school fees before a stand is adopted,” he communicated through his Twitter handle.
In an interview with our reporter on Tuesday, Dr. John Chrysostom Muyingo, the State Minister in charge of Higher Education stated that before the term opens, the Ministry of Education intends to make communication regarding school fees.
Before any official announcement is made by the ministry, some parents feel that it may not be of any use. For instance, Joseph Kibirige, argues that many schools have already set their fees for the next term and some parents have already made payments.
Kibirige says that the ministry should have made the announcement or decided on the matter before schools closed for the term.
Regulating school fees has remained one of the controversial issues in the education sector for the last ten years with different people, saying that if the government does not intervene, many children will be denied education. Private school owners across the country have rejected the planned government school fees regulation policy.
Recently, the National Private Education Institution Association (NPEIA) opposed the idea of setting a cap on private school fees, saying the policy will push private proprietors out of business.