Govt, schools clash over free education policy

The Minister of Education and Sports, Ms Janet Museveni, addresses journalists at State House, Nakasero, in 2022. PHOTO/FRANK BAGUMA

What you need to know:

Sources in the Education ministry say the government is not satisfied with the fact that it invests a lot of money in government-aided schools, which are run by foundational bodies.

Government and the Church have clashed over the plan to offer free education in traditional schools effective next year.

The Education ministry yesterday announced that all foundation bodies that own primary and secondary schools should start implementing a no-fees policy, threatening to withdraw all forms of grants and funding to those that will defy.

However, the executive secretary of the Commission for Education of the Uganda Episcopal Conference (UEC), Mr Ronald Okello, said the staff ceiling in all the government-aided schools is very low, which necessitates them to levy additional fees on students to hire extra teachers under Parent Teacher Association (PTA).

“The acceptable and recommended number of teachers’ ratio per student has not been met by the government. The recommended ratio is 1:40. But we are talking about 1,200 pupils in one school with six teachers, what ratio is that?” Mr Okello wondered.

The State minister of Primary Education, Dr Joyce Kaducu Moriku, while addressing the media at the Uganda Media Centre on Monday, said the move to start offering free education was approved by Cabinet on Friday last week.

“All schools must adhere to the no school fees policy when implementing the UPE and USE programmes. Failure to comply will result in the government withdrawing its support for those schools. This decision has been made and we will soon engage in discussions with foundation bodies regarding this matter,” the minister noted.

Traditional schools such as Gayaza High School, Kings College Budo, and Nabisunsa Girls’ School, are owned majorly by religious institutions.

The government has been subsidising education in these schools by paying teachers, and providing grants for infrastructure development, textbooks, and laboratory equipment.

However, most of these schools have been charging exorbitant fees despite the additional funding from the government in the guise of paying extra teachers.

Mr Okello said unless the government increases the staff ceiling in these schools and increases the capitation grant per learner to a reasonable amount, the government can go ahead and withdraw funding.

The law

The director of Education Service Services at Church of Uganda, Dr Paul Kakooza, said the Education Act stipulates three forms of schools, which included government public schools, grant-aided and private schools.

According to him, the grant-aided schools, which have a public-private partnership with the government are foundational body schools and anything the government plans to do should be agreed upon.

Some heads of school this newspaper contacted declined to comment on grounds that they have not yet received communication from the government.

“The Ministry of Education has not yet written to us. Once we receive their communication, we shall comment,’’ Mr John Kazibwe, the head teacher of Kings College Budo, said.

Policy plans

        The move by the government to make traditional schools offer free education is also among the lengthy proposals that have been collected by the Education Review Commission. The commission was tasked by the Eduaction minister Janet Museveni in 2021 to conduct a rapid assessment of the current education system by interfacing with citizens and undertake an in-depth analysis of the 1992 Education Policy so as to make recommendations to inform a new Government White Paper for Cabinet consideration.

     According to the Ministry of Education accomplishment report 2021, each learner in the primary school received Shs17,000 per year. Relatedly, a Shs174,000 capitation grant is given to each learner in O-Level and Shs270,000 per learner in A-Level per year.


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