Wednesday August 20 2014

The cost of having a child in in pre-school

By Gloria Haguma

Remember the days when your school fees did not cost more that Shs50,000 for pre-primary? Well, those days are long gone, and those that have children or plan to have some soon, will have to start planning for the money you will spend, now. My four-year-old sister’s fees for the daycare centre is Shs700,000. You may wonder what a four-year-old is being taught, that requires all that money. The economy is facing tough times and the cost of living going up lately, are some of the reasons, proprietors of these centres say.

How the system works
Winnie Bagonza, of Wind Chimes Kindergarten and Daycare located on Nkuzogere Road, Industrial Area, explains that the centre charges Shs890,000, which is meant to cover the fees, meals, library and stationary facilities, plus the swimming classes.

“We provide breakfast, lunch and snacks. So we don’t allow our children to carry any foods. This is mainly because many of the parents end up packing lot of unhealthy foods and drinks like soda, which I would not recommend. So we provide all the meals,” she explains.

She adds that the only service that is not availed is the transport and the uniforms. Bagonza explains that she found it unnecessary to have uniforms, since each child is unique, and sees no reason for a child under five to have to wear one. So the pupils at her centre are allowed to wear their own clothes, which should be suitable for play, and make the child feel comfortable. The charges for fees vary, depending on the location of the school and sometimes greatly. The pupils at the Good Shepherd Unique Academy in Hoima are required to part with Shs70,000, which is accompanied with two kilogrammes of sugar, and four rolls of toilet paper.

The Shs70,000 fee is for those pupils that spend the whole day at the school. On the other hand, those that stay for half the day are required to part with Shs30,000.

As Ruth Musoke explains, the fee is to cater for the pupils’ break meal, which comprises a snack and a cup of porridge, plus their lunch. “We allow for those pupils that can afford to, to carry food from home. But we do provide meals for all, and our pupils also have a well set up play area, that has swings and slides, all of which are accessed for free,” Auntie Ruth, as she is called around the school says.

Miriam Byunvuhoore, a midwife enrolled her four-year-old daughter at the Zainab Daycare and preprimary says she visited over five schools before zeroing down on this one. “For me, the money wasn’t the issue. I just wanted a place where I could feel that my child was safe, and in good hands. What I like about Zainab is the good communication system that they have. They will call you, in case of any emergency, if my daughter is unwell, or she is having any difficulties,” Byunvuhoore explains. She adds that the pupils are also treated very well and made to feel at home.

At Zainab Daycare and Preprimary, the fee is Shs500,000 on top of Shs160,000 for transport. The pupils are not allowed to carry food to school and they are provided with breakfast, lunch, and a snack. So then what is the ideal fees structure for a child at that stage of education?

According to Fagil Mandy, an education consultant, the prices for these schools, are market oriented. “I cannot say that this or that should be the right amount. We live in a free market economy. The owners of these schools are charging what they want. They set the prices depending on what the parents are demanding. It’s not a good thing, that a child at that level has to be paying such amounts of money, but it’s a way of life,” he explains. He adds that the choice is down to the parents. If they opt to have their children in such expensive institutions then there should be reason for complaint.

“If you can’t afford that’s school, opt for one within your means. But on the other hand, if you feel the services offered are matching the fees structure, and you are okay with it, then I see no reason as to why you wouldn’t keep your child there,” Mandy adds. He points out the class factor as another reason for parents straining themselves with such exorbitant fees.

“Some people buy class. But remember that class is normally expensive. So you end up suffering, because you are trying so hard to match up. My advice would be that you don’t do things that put you under pressure. It’s not worth it,” he concludes.

Ensure your child always has fees:

• Sustainability. Mr. James Abola advises parents that the key in choosing your child’s preprimary school is sustainability. “You need to know that you are going to be paying school fees for this child until their university. So choose a school you know you can afford, and won’t have you spending all the money at the preprimary level,” he says.
• Wholesome school. Abola says that the money factor should not be your biggest worry. What you have to think about, he says, is what the child needs – the environment of the school, ability of the child to socialise, toilet facilities, and ability of your child to learn the basic skills. “There are many schools, but you have to search to find a good school for your child,”Abola adds.
• Save for school fees. Knowing the stress that comes with availing the money for your child’s education and on time, Abola points out that the failure by some parents to take on the saving culture is the main reason they struggle with school fees.
“It’s such a shame that many parents still pay for their children’s school fees from their monthly salaries. So that means if you earn Shs700,000 monthly, and you enroll your child in a school that pays Shs600,000, you are bound to have trouble with paying the money on time, let alone be able to raise it,” he states.
He recommends that parents should take on the saving culture, either by making use of the numerous bank schemes available, or even the SACCOs. With these, he says you can save money for three months, which is money for at least two terms.
• Use the gift money. “Sometimes when the children are born, you get presents, which sometimes come in form of cash. Don’t splash this money, save it for that time when your child starts school.