For the past few weeks, there has been a raging war on social media on the rising cost of school requirements as students prepare for the new term that starts today for most schools.
The debate was triggered by a circular of an admission letter for a primary one pupil of St Theresa’s Namagunga Primary Boarding School with the cost of requirements amounting to Shs1.2 million. This circular was posted on social media by a number of people.
The said amount was not part of the tuition fees which stood independently at Shs1.1 million. In total, a parent has to part with Shs2.3 million for term one for a Primary One child.
Some of the school requirements on the admission letter included; Development fee, essential dormitory requirements for personal hygiene, pocket money, library fees, ream of photocopying paper, class requirements, foundation body fee, club fee, school identity cards, new mattress and Mackintosh, bucket, school uniforms, swimming pool, school magazine, medical checkup, field study, and digital teaching/ learning facilities.
Part of the admission letter states, “Your daughter/son is expected to report for school after meeting the school requirements.” The admission letter also indicated that a bank draft was supposed to be submitted to the school two weeks prior to the child’s reporting to school.
Parents remain pitted on two sides of the coin with some arguing that the money they pay is worth the education their children receive, while other parents argue that “their children can pass from anywhere.”
One parent wrote in response to a KFM post as to whether parents get value for money saying,
“So the bar is set, other schools can also set their own. Every parent takes their child where they choose to and holds their peace. Namagunga and other schools in its calibre know what they are offering. “Please don’t limit your children they need the exposure to clubs, skills and confidence.”
However, another parent wrote that before digging deep to pay tuition and other necessary requirements, it is important for a parent to tour the school of interest to observe firsthand the kind of services a child will get including an analysis of the previous performance.
Jerusha Bazanama, a parent whose daughter goes to Olea Academy in Kungu, Buwate, a Kampala suburb says: “I am contented with the school requirements my child’s school asks for because they are part of the school fees.”
However, Banazanama finds it ridiculous for the school to ask for a dictionary for a child in primary one which her daughter will be joining at the beginning of the term. She suggests that a dictionary must be asked for at least at Primary Three when a child understands its use.
Administrators speak out
Government liberalised the education sector to allow for participation from the private sector. As such, over the years, schools have increased in number to include both private and public.
Meanwhile, with the rapid changes in technology and the workplace, parents increasingly desire to give their children quality education.
Because of this, parents are forced to dig deeper into their pockets. Over the years, schools mainly in the private sector have increased tuition and school requirements owing to the state of the economy and the provision of quality education to match demands from the job sector.
Simon Mugaaju, the head teacher at Sir Apollo Kagwa Primary School in Kampala explains why parents complain about school requirements.
He says: “Parents complain about requirements which are constant in quantity term after term. Some schools may demand for two to three dozen exercise books. They also have demands on reams of papers. But when you explain to them, all is well.”
Mugaaju says the school adjusts the requirements depending on the term.
“At the beginning of the year, we ask for one and half dozen books but as other year goes on, we reduce to one dozen because we usually have some leftovers from the previous term,” he says.
Mugaaju insists that the school engages parents before any adjustments on the list of requirements are made.
Mugaaju says the school administration provides accountability about any additions whenever school meetings are convened at school.
John Baptist Tumusiime, the director of studies at St Henry’s College Kitovu, explains the school policy on requirements is that a student comes with requirements of personal effect such as shirts, trousers, sportswear and personal exercise and text books.
When pressed to explain why they sell text books to students and yet there is a school library, Tumusiime says, “The books they pay for are for their personal study time. For instance for subjects like Literature, we have novels in the library but they are not enough for all the students to use equally so they have to buy.”
He says it is not compulsory to buy books from school.
“We don’t send learners away if they don’t have these requirements. In case a student is disadvantaged, and cannot afford to buy the books, then they can use the school resources. And these books cost between Shs20, 000 and 30,000. Most of the times, parents can afford them,” he adds.
Mugaaju advises schools administrators who over demand from parents to hold planning meetings with parents before demands are made.
Tumusiime says the problem with some schools is that they try to hide school fees increments by asking for extra requirements.
“When a school administration is afraid to say that they are charging Shs3million, they mask the increment as requirements,” Tumusiime says.
The Ministry of Education issued a circular in 2018 with guidelines on school tuition and other related requirements.
The guideline stated: “All school budgets must be discussed and endorsed by the full board/school management committees and submitted to the respective Chief Administrative Officers (CAO) /town clerks. For secondary schools, the CAO shall submit the endorsed school budgets to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education and Sports by December 31 of each year for final approval.”
Another guideline reads: “No school, private or government, shall increase school fees for whatever reason without written authorisation from the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Education and Sports and/or Chief Administrative Officer/town clerk as the case may be.”
“Other cash and non-cash requirements outside the approved school fees are strictly prohibited. All non-cash items must be catered for in the school budget,” it reads in conclusion.