Kitgum. More than 1,000 pupils in Kitgum Municipality are missing classes after their schools were closed over failure to meet the minimum operating standards.
The 21 schools were found with inadequate facilities such as classes, dormitories and toilets, while others had no operating licences.
The affected schools are privately-owned, with learners ranging from 100 to 200 from each school. The nursery and primary schools include Baptist Primary School, Mary Mother of God, Pope Francis Nursery School and Queen Nursery and primary school.
The resident district commissioner, Mr William Komakech, who spearheaded the closure, described the condition of the affected schools as ‘pathetic’.
“We were shocked to find some schools with only one pit-latrine, which was being shared by both male and female pupils and teachers at the same time,” Mr Komakech said.
He added that in other schools, the learners were attending lessons while sitting on the floor yet the parents pay a lot of money in fees.
Mr Komakech said some of the schools lacked qualified teachers.
“We found that degree holders were teaching nursery pupils. What do these people know about early childhood education?” he said.
He added that they have realised that some school proprietors prefer cheap labour which is detrimental to the future generation.
The municipal education officer, Ms Harriet Atim, said the affected schools ignored several reminders to improve the learning environment and getting licences.
“We held several meetings with the school heads and directors on the benefits of having the basics in place, but we did not receive any feedback, thus closing the schools until they meet the required standards,” she said.
“We are advising parents in the affected schools to relocate their children to other schools that are functional so that the children don’t miss out,” Ms Atim advised.
A director of one of the closed schools, who declined to be named, pleaded with the district for more time for them to put their houses in order.
“Some of the government schools here are worse than ours but because they are government-aided, they have not been affected; they were merely cautioned. We also need such a motherly hand as we sort out ourselves,” she said.
She added that some parents had already paid the school fees for their children, adding that such closure affects the smooth running of the school activities.
Ms Alice Akena, a parent, faulted the RDC and Education ministry for not alerting them about the blacklisted schools.
About 300 private primary and secondary schools did not open for first term after they failed to meet the minimum standards as required by the ministry of Education, according to the Federation of Non-State Education Institutions , an umbrella organisation for all private schools in Uganda.
The closure of these schools has caused uproar among the proprietors, parents and learners who argue that government should be considerate to schools which accommodate learners, especially from low income earners.
According to a statement released by the Education ministry Permanent Secretary, Mr Alex Kakooza, recently, there are at least 1,300 schools that do not meet education standards and therefore must remain closed until they comply.
According to Section 36(4) of the Education Act, 2008, school authorities are required to comply with closure notice and shall not reopen the education institution without written permission from the permanent secretary of the Education ministry, chief administrative officer or the clerk.