Save learners affected by school fees increment
Today, students from Uganda’s low-income backgrounds can and want to be productive members of society.
In developed and developing countries, promoting more inclusive societies and employment opportunities for students from low-income backgrounds requires improved access to education, affirmative action, and the pursuit of inclusive policies.
Many societies also recognise the need to make education a basic right and not just a privilege accessible to only the elite.
This necessitates the creation of financing opportunities and the provision of information in a variety of formats that can ease everyone’s access to education up to the university level.
On September 4, the majority of the country’s learners reported back to school for their final academic term of the year.
This third term will run for approximately 14 weeks and students have to write their promotional examinations.
However, there is an outcry from parents and learners about the increase in school fees. Many parents are not in a good financial position to take back these learners to school. The increment in school fees has not spared the head teachers either as they have lost learners to other schools because of affordability issues.
Many parents have changed their learners to schools that charge lower regardless of the standards.
The issue of hiked school fees was recently raised on the floor of Parliament and Speaker Anita Among asked the House committee on Education to look into the matter. But who is to blame for the decline in enrollment? Is it the educational institutions that increased school fees or parents who have failed to meet their obligation or the Education ministry that formulated a policy when it comes to school fees?
Both government-aided and private schools increased the school fees by 30 percent to 50 percent.
The Education Act of 2008 categorises education institutions as government, government-aided or private. The responsibilities of the government towards schools include ensuring that trained teachers are deployed; paying salaries and allowances to teachers, and providing educational materials and other capital development inputs.
In private institutions, the government mainly ensures that private education institutions conform to the rules and regulations governing the provision of education services in Uganda.
Additionally, the government supports schools through capitation grants. A total of Shs23b was released as a supplementary budget to increase the capitation grant rate for the 7.6 million learners in 12,432 public primary schools from Shs17,000, at the start of the Financial Year in July 2021, to Shs20,000 target per learner annually
The capitation grant is an annual contribution by the government toward the education of learners.
Truthfully, this is a drop in the ocean. With the financial pressures worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic, now compounded by an increase in food prices, hiked transport fares, energy debt, and inflation, teachers and learners are finding it costly to go to and from school. Due to low funding, some schools, most especially those in urban areas, have started collecting additional fees dubbed PTA fees to finance their needs.
According to guidelines, school expenditures that are eligible for the UPE capitation grant include instructional and scholastic materials (35 percent), co-curricular activities (20 percent), school management (15 percent), administration (10 percent), and contingency expenditure (20 percent).
So what schools are doing is increasing the cost of scholastic materials, school management, and administration which is justifiable with the current inflated prices.
Therefore, there is a need for concerted efforts from different stakeholders to help mitigate the effects that come with hiked school fees.
School management committees and boards of governors need to allow parents to pay school fees in kind such as food items that can be consumed at school because most of them are engaged in agriculture.
The Ministry of Education needs to quicken its process of consulting the various stakeholders about the Statutory Instrument that was drafted to regulate school fees and other charges in our institutions of learning.
Also, inspectors of schools need to be facilitated to effectively carry out their monitoring role and ensure that the schools are following the rules and regulations. This will help the inspection team to make recommendations after gathering ideas from these schools.
Furthermore, the issue of school fees should be appreciated by the education policy review commission as it drafts the white paper or macro policy framework for Uganda’s Education and sports sector.