Friday August 29 2014

Government issues new tough rules for private schools

The vice chairperson, National Private Education I

The vice chairperson, National Private Education Institutions Association, Ms Zaujah Ndifuna, addresses private schools teachers and owners in Kampala recently. PHOTO BY FAISWAL KASIRYE. 


Kampala-No proprietor will be licensed to start a private secondary school unless they have at least seven full-time teachers—three of whom should be teaching sciences or mathematics.
Also, whoever heads a school must be a university graduate.

The order is among a new set of guidelines the government has issued for people seeking to open private schools.

On enrolment, one will only be allowed to open a private primary school if they have at least 55 pupils enrolled in each class while the minimum number for secondary schools is 40 students per class.

According to Mr Ismail Mulindwa, an assistant commissioner in the Education ministry, the guidelines have been prompted by a recent survey which revealed that many private schools were operating in contravention of the Education Act 2008.

“These new guidelines will serve as benchmarks for our efforts to ensure quality in private sector education provision,” he said in an interview yesterday

New schools, according to the guidelines, will only be registered between October and December and registration certificate will be valid for only five years for secondary schools while primary schools will have to renew their certificates after every two years.

More requirements
“Proprietors intending to register their schools in any given year must ensure that their files are with us by June 30 of the previous year to enable us carry out inspection. Issuing of a new licence will only be done after revalidation of the school,” said Mr Mulindwa.

For boarding schools, dormitories will be inspected and issued with an occupancy permit before students are allowed to take residence. Also to be affected is the nomenclature of schools. No school will be allowed to tag the title “college” or ‘academy’ to its name.
A school will only use the title ‘college’ if its attached to a university or college to demonstrate skills taught there while an ‘academy’ will be one that offers a particular set of skills like military, music or drama.

Mr Mulindwa said although the guidelines are for new schools, the older ones will have to comply with the directives before their current licences are renewed. For those that already have the title ‘college’ or ‘academy’, he said would be advised to change names.

“It was oversight to allow them to operate but we shall sit with the proprietors and ask them to change the names,” he said

Reacting to the new guidelines, Mr Hassadu Kirabi, the head of research at the National Private Educational Institutions Association, protested the conditions on registration, saying they are unfair and will lock out many potential investors.

“We agree with other changes but the issue of putting a limit on the period we are supposed to register is unfair. Registration is not a one-day deal and given the paper work involved, they should leave it open,” he said yesterday.

In 2009, government closed a total of 398 schools for failure to meet minimum operational, safety and security standards as stipulated in the Education Act, 2008.

This followed several school fires which destroyed property worth billions and in some cases—deaths of students.

A recent report by the ministry revealed fewer private schools were adhering to set minimum standards compared to the public ones.

Overall, 45.8 per cent of schools inspected were rated fair, followed by 27.7 per cent as unsatisfactory, 25.2 per cent scored “good” while only 1.2 per cent were rated very good.

Also, grading of private schools in 2011 by government saw no school make it to the “excellent” category while only nine of the 2,073 made it to “class B”.

Some key rules

Ownership: Change of school ownership or location will only be allowed at the end of year to avoid interrupting school operations
Qualification: Matrons must have a minimum academic qualification of primary seven and not below 30 years.
Security: School guards must be on surveillance of premises 24-hours and must have basic security knowledge
Medical checkups: Matrons and school cooks must be examined medically every after six months
Exits: Two emergency exits in each dormitory is a must
Fire: Erect secure fence and installing fire protection systems.
Sanitation: Dustbins and incinerators as well as erecting appropriate kitchens with utensils dying racks must be provided
Names: School names with a relationship with other countries /organisations will only be used with explicit written permission from embassies of those countries.