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Education official wants school probed over prom

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A videograb of two students arriving for the party in a chopper at Elite High School, Entebbe, at the weekend. PHOTO/COURTESY OF NTV-Uganda

The State Minister for Higher Education was last evening left stunned that a high school student at the weekend flew in a hired chopper for a school party.
Mr John Chrysostom Muyingo expressed disbelief that students would lead such a showy lifestyle in a country where millions of households are struggling to have three meals a day.

“Are those things happening in Uganda? Where are we going? I have never thought of hiring a chopper. Money is a scarce resource. It shouldn’t just be given out and spent just like that even if their parents have money. What message are they sending to the children? That is horrible,” Mr Muyingo wondered.

Efforts to get a comment on the events from the administrators of Elite High School were futile as the known school phone contacts went unanswered yesterday before they finally became unreachable.
Mr Muyingo said nurturing students on such lavish lifestyles when they are not working may prepare them to be corrupt and that the stakeholders in the Education sector should guide learners on how to handle money.
“We shouldn’t prepare our children to be extravagant. I’m surprised to hear that these things are happening in Uganda where many people are poor and many students are not able to, even sit an exam because there is no money. I would like to see something that promotes the values of carefulness, not extravagance. They should not spend beyond their means,” he advised.

The minister also warned that pairing up students during such parties sends a wrong signal to the young brains.
Mr Ismail Mulindwa, the director for Basic and Secondary Education in the Education ministry, said: “We condemn the act as a ministry. That is how immorality starts. We are going to investigate the matter and act.  Traditional schools had started doing the same thing and we directed them to stop. They heed our directive. Parents have never sent their children to couple up but to be nurtured into responsible citizens.” 

He added that the government would soon approve guidelines on how to conduct school parties to check immoral acts and promotion of indecency in schools. 
At the weekend, various social media platforms were awash with short videos of male and female students of Elite High School arriving to attend the party.
In a video, a helicopter is seen hovering over the school premises in a  drizzle, later finding its base at one of the fields in the school.

A few minutes later, the door to the chopper is opened, and from it, emerges a male teenager clad in a blue suit, bosses the atmosphere as he takes a couple of pictures while his date-mate; who is also smartly dressed in a long black single arm dress, follows.
Not only did these two learners take social media by storm, but other leaked videos also showed students arrived in a big way riding in top of the range vehicles.

This school event, which looked highly attended, was synonymous with the globally watched red carpet, costume party, and celebrity-featuring Hollywood shows like The Oscars, MET Gala, Grammy Awards, and Emmy awards.

 A close source privy to the activities of the day, last evening told this publication of how the event was organised. 
“The students who participated in the prom party for Senior Four and Senior Six candidates who were about 400 in number. All these students come from families with the same status and background,” the source said.

The source added: “The students with the help of the administration selected an organising committee which listed the details, updated and reported to the administration”
Some students shared tales of money they spent on new dresses and suits.

Our sources said the helicopter was hired from Bar Aviation at $1,200 (about shs4.5 million) while the cars cost between Shs1.2m to Shs3m for hire depending on the type and model.
“I hired a V8 2022 model, which costs Shs1.2b on the Ugandan market, and I paid Shs3m for six hours,” one of the students was overheard saying in a video interview.

A prom party is a formal celebration that involves dining and dancing and is usually held at the end of the year.
However, these prom parties are not new in Uganda. Some of the notable ones are between Maryhill High School, Mbarara and Mbarara High School or Ntare School, Immaculate Heart Girls School Nyakibale teaming with either of the boys’ schools in Mbarara.   
However, a some educationists have condemned the act and urged the government to ban school-based prom parties.

Mr Filbert Baguma, the general secretary of the Uganda National Teachers Union (Unatu) described the lavish party as unprofessional.
“In a school setup, there is no way you can promote such. If it is a party for students, it is a party for students within the school premises, and it must be regulated. You cannot simply say it is a party, go. Then that seems to be a school environment,”Mr Baguma said.

He added: “In a situation where students turn up in expensive cars, they come in the choppers, that shouldn’t still be in a school compound or near a school compound because that one doesn’t know what he’s doing in such a school. Already they are spoiled by those actions. You cannot rate them as students really because that is something that is far beyond the expectations of a school environment. “

He said schools should regulate the actions or behaviour of their learners and put time limits for certain things.
Mr Baguma said sometimes, parents cannot be blamed for such actions because some of them are rich but not literate.
“They are illiterate and they have not been to a school set-up and they have the money. And you know the practice nowadays is that schools ask for anything. And therefore, once the school demands, the parents and guardians now have no room for protest. What they put in the circular is what you pay,” he said.

Mr Baguma added: “I want to believe whether chopper, whether vehicles, they hired them using the money given to them by either parents or brothers and sisters, which is very unfortunate. But I want to say the setup must have been by the school administration.”
Weighing, Mr Fagil Mandy, a renowned senior educationist and a former chairperson of the Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb), said schools that organise prom parties lack wisdom.
He called upon the Education ministry to take stern action against such schools to act as a deterrent to others.

“I think that’s the most stupid thing. Do you know why? Because it is not helping the students. Do you remember the case of students who were travelling and were kissing each other on a school bus? That is the same as this one,” he said yesterday.

Mr Mandy added: “I think what we need to do is to publicise that thing as much as possible to show people that is the reality. For me, I can use the word, I think that’s the most stupid thing and it is only increasing. A school which organises a thing like that should be penalised by the minister of Education seriously.”
Further, Mr Mandy said students can easily get drunk or become unruly at such parties.

“If such things are allowed to go on, people are going to run mad. Even those girls and boys will become so bad,”  Mr Mandy said.
He also refuted claims that the students who travelled in a chopper belonged to peasant farmers.
“Do you think that a peasant farmer can afford that? Who gave it to them?  That is a case that really should be taken to the police if they hired it, because, were they qualified to hire a chopper?,” he questioned.

Mr Hasadu Kirabira, the chairperson of the National Private Educational Institutions Association, who owns a secondary school, described prom parties as immoral.
“The way some students dress and behave during such parties is inappropriate and they end up engaging in immoral behaviour. We shall be meeting officials from the Ministry of Education very soon and one of the pertinent issues we hope to explore and encourage the ministry to ban is erotic parties,” he said.

According to the school website, Elite High School is a modern mixed boarding Christian School for both O and A levels. It  is located on Entebbe Road.

Prom, short for promenade, is a semi-formal dance usually held toward the end of high school. It’s a celebration and final send-off for graduating students before they embark on their next journey. Typically, prom takes place in late spring and is often considered a rite of passage for teenagers.

What happens at a prom?
Prom night is a custom where high school juniors and seniors dress in formal attire and participate in activities surrounding a dance.
   Prom activities vary but they mainly involve dates, prom dresses, dinners, and dancing.