How school owners fleece parents to stay in business

What you need to know:

  • As a result of the foregoing, parents should be more cautious, conducting research and background checks on schools before sending their children there. The Monitor investigates some of the methods used by school administrators to defraud parents.

Parents look at a variety of factors when sending their children to school, including academic performance and student care. However, for most school administrators, investing in education is primarily about doing business. And to live up to this, they have devised a slew of tactics to attract customers while largely ignoring the important qualities that parents seek.

As a result of the foregoing, parents should be more cautious, conducting research and background checks on schools before sending their children there. The Monitor investigates some of the methods used by school administrators to defraud parents.

One of the strategies is to advertise false performances. The Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB) will soon release PLE, UCE, and UACE results, but you will see and hear a lot of advertisements in the media about schools’ excellent performance right after they are released.

But did you know that some schools advertise false results to attract new students? A school that never had a single student in first grade will run advertisements on local radio stations, indicating that it had 80 students in first grade and the rest in second grade out of 100 students.

According to Mr Andrew Muganzi, a retired teacher, the practice is common in private schools.

“I will not name a specific school, but before retiring, I was approached by one investor to assist him in starting a school; we did so, but our performance was not always the best because he never invested in quality teachers; enrollment remained low, and we had to find ways to attract and grow the number of students,” Mr Muganzi explains.

He explained that one of the tactics was to broadcast false results on radios.

“The challenge is that there are many radio stations, and I believe that due to competition, they do not verify what you advertise with them. So we could just make up our results and advertise, and the ruse worked,” Mr Muganzi goes on to say that one of the reasons he retired was because he couldn’t live with this dishonesty any longer.

Another strategy is for schools to advertise their services as providing quality education and caring for their students.

Mr Asaph Besigye describes how his two children nearly died of starvation after being duped by a school that, in addition to providing quality education, also provided quality feeding.

“This school advertised free computer lessons, qualified teachers, and a good feeding program that included milk and meat on their menu. “I brought my children there, but they almost died of malnutrition,” Mr Besigye explains.

Ms Asiati Twongyeirwe, a resident of Koranorya in Biharwe, Mbarara City North Division, said she is aware of a nearby school that advertises running water, solar power, and a standby generator but lacks them.

“Schools are always desperate for students to compete and stay in business, but they use deceptive tactics, and most parents don’t bother to check on the utilities they claim to have. One of the schools in the neighbourhood is always advertising that it has running tap water, a standby generator, and solar panels, but none of these things exists.

“This school’s students fetch water from a public water tap kilometres away and, on occasion, from a nearby stream,” Ms Twongyeirwe explains.

She goes on to say that some schools have brokers and middlemen who go around homes and other busy areas like markets with flyers looking for students, but when you analyze and do background checks on the information on these flyers, it turns out to be mostly false.

Mr Moses Bainomugisha, a resident of Mbarara City, claims that schools also lie about sponsorship packages.

“Parents get excited with sponsorship offers like half school fees just to get numbers, but once you’re there the next term, you’re forced to pay regular fees,” Mr Bainomugisha observes.

Mr Gabriel Ahimbisibwe, the District Education Officer for Mbarara District, describes the practice as dangerous and warns that such schools risk being deregistered and their managers arrested.

“We will look into these reports, and any school found to be engaging in this practice will be deregistered.” It’s a terrible and dangerous student recruitment strategy,” warns Mr Ahimbisibwe.

Mr Nathan Mugume, a chairperson of the Mbarara City Schools Head Teachers Association, stated that the practice is wrong and must be stopped.

“We’ll check in with education officials here to see if the allegations are true. It’s a bad practice that distorts educational standards while also defrauding parents and children,” Mr Mugume stated.

He further says that the problem is exacerbated by parents who have abdicated their responsibility by simply dropping their children off at school and leaving them at the mercy of administrators.

“Parents have abdicated their responsibilities by simply enrolling their children in schools without conducting any background checks on them; some children in schools go hungry and are underfed. Parents have a responsibility, and they should form partnerships with schools to ensure that their children receive the best education and care possible,” Mr Mugume adds.

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