Ways schools can meet costs

Bishop Stuart University, Mbarara, students of agribusiness display some of the products they make. The products  help students pay their bills. PHOTO | RAJAB MUKOMBOZI

As school terms come to an end, the cost of education remains high in the country. It is not only parents destined to lose but also education institutions because some of them have closed due to lack of funds to sustain them.

Since the reopening of schools after two years of the pandemic-induced lockdown in Uganda, most schools have increased tuition fees and some others asked for many requirements for the new term, which made it tough for the poor to access education.

There are also many students that drop out before completing primary and Secondary school and whereas this drop out many reasons to most this is associated with financial reasons. Now education experts and experts are now weighing in on what education institutions can do to mitigate the cost of living.

Bosco Asiimwe, 40, a parent from Kakiika, in Mbarara City notes that the     introduction of Universal Primary Education (UPE) and Universal Secondary Education (USE) did not yield as much in terms of making education affordable.

“In Mbarara City, UPE schools charge between Shs 50,000 and Shs 100,000 as parent’s contribution minus uniform, feeding and transport. On average, parents spend more than Shs 150,000 per term. This is obscene for an ordinary parent and the trend is likely to lock out potential and able, but vulnerable children from accessing education,” Asiimwe notes.

Bishop Fred Sheldon Mwesigwa, an educationist, says education institutions should prioritise vocational and practical skills and engage students in farming to mitigate increased costs of operation.

“Schools should focus on skills and vocational education. Yes, we want to churn out students who have skills even at lower primary and secondary level but these students can also contribute to making some of the school needs that would otherwise be expensive. For example, students could make beds and chairs using acquired skills,” Bishop Mwesigwa told Mbarara High School board of governors.

Handicrafts

Revival of handwork is another intervention schools can undertake to mitigate the cost of education in the country. The executive director Foundation for Aids Orphaned Children (FAOC) Boaz Buyinza notes that there is need to revive handwork in schools because schools can sell handwork crafts which could reduce operating costs in schools.

“When we started the school feeding programme in Isingiro District in 2016, parents could not afford Shs5,000 which schools had asked them to contribute for breakfast; thus as an organisation we lacked funds to feed these children, and the question lingered on how to start the feeding programme and its sustainability. That is how, we came up with the handwork intervention,” he explains.

He says handwork would not only develop students’ skills but would have an economic benefit from handicrafts such as balls, mats, baskets, walking sticks, and pots.

“We collect handicrafts and market them at exhibitions and trade shows, public functions plus other gatherings, and shop outlets. Then, the proceeds are reimbursed to schools under school support scheme,” Buyinza notes.

Molly Night, the head teacher of Kicwekano Primary School in Kabingo Sub-county in Isingiro District, says the school collects between 150,000 -200,000 a month that has seen the majority of pupils get breakfast comprising milk and maize porridge at school. 

“The handwork each pupil makes is tagged on his or her name and after the sale; the proceeds go to cater for their feeding. The programme has not only eased the burden of feeding costs on parents of which majority could not afford but, has also improved enrollment and performance,” explains Night.

Alternative income

Bishop Stuart University (BSU) vice chancellor Mauda Kamatenesi, says schools and higher institutions of learning are struggling with funding. Kamatenesi adds that unless an alternative source of funding apart from tuition is sourced, their core mandate will never be achieved.

“Schools and higher institutions of learning struggle with income which may not only hurt parents and their children but institutions could be forced to close,” she explains.

Kamatenesi says other institutions have invested in alternative sources of income through agribusiness that is not only skilling their students but improving their income and that of the university.

“As a university we need income to undertake transformation in areas of research, innovations and infrastructural development. We need income to boost our independence away from students’ contributions. This sector will help us in skilling our students amidst employment challenges and creating income for them to foot their tuition and other necessities,” she adds.

Curriculum

Albert Mwesigye, the head teacher Mbarara Progressive School, notes the introduction of a new secondary school curriculum should help schools mitigate the costs of education because of its emphasis on practical skills.

“The new lower secondary curriculum emphasises practical education, …but most schools lack teachers to implement this curriculum but also  lack resources for practical education such as land to do farming,” Mwesigye explains.

The head teacher Mbarara Junior School, Nathan Mugume, says the school has a plantation that supplements feeding of pupils which has reduced the burden of feeding pupils.

“We have a school plantation and farm, we get matooke and some milk to feed our pupils. Of course this cuts the budget we and what parents would have contributed to the feeding of pupils,” he explains.

Patience Nabasa, former BSU student, says she ably paid part of her tuition because of the agribusiness skills she gained at university in her second year. 

“After agribusiness training, I started making different products that included decorations, bags,jewellery and briquettes from banana fibres and peelings, plastic, straws and old clothes. By second year I could pay my bills and also contribute to my tuition. On average, I earned Shs 300,000 per month,” she explains.

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