How MPs intend to regulate school fees

Pupils attend a lesson at Nakasero Primary School last year. MPs want government to regulate school fees in both government grant-aided schools and private schools. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Parliament has instructed a committee to come up with a comprehensive report addressing the issue in both government and private institutions.

Parliament is expected to start a process to amend the 2008 Education Act in a bid to, among others, give the Education minister sweeping powers to regulate fees in both government-aided and private institutions.

The move comes at a time when parents are apprehensive about possible hikes in particularly private schools and government grant-aided schools.

Last week, the House disregarded a report by its Education committee that explored the issue of prohibitively high fees charged in government grant-aided schools. 

The committee was instructed to come up with a comprehensive report addressing the issue of school fees in both government and private institutions. 

Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa said the committee report fell short of the expectations of the House.
“I request the committee to go back, study the report again, update it, consider members’ issues and report back after one month,” Mr Tayebwa said.

Ms Brenda Nabukenya (Luweero District Woman), while presenting the minority report, said she will soon seek leave of Parliament to introduce a Private Member’s Bill to amend the Education Act, 2008, to introduce provisions for the government to compulsorily regulate school fees and introduce other provisions that will compel the Education ministry to take a tough stance against schools that do not comply.

Ms Nabukenya also said many of the schools charging exorbitant fees are owned by powerful government officials, who are supposed to implement the ministry directives on school fees regulation. 

Key among the proposed amendments is the one around government regulating school fees in both government grant-aided schools and private schools. Equally key is the provision of government schools paying tuition fees into the Consolidated Fund and the government taking full payment of salaries in government grant-aided schools. 

The parity in salaries for both Science and Arts teachers is just as eye-catching. This is expected to address the burden on schools charging pupils and students to top up Arts teachers’ allowances after the government selectively increased salaries for their science counterparts.

During the debate on the floor of Parliament last week, the Education committee in its initial report recommended that the “government should, as a matter of urgency, come up with a statutory instrument to regulate the school fees charged by all schools.” 

Mr Samuel Opio Acuti (Kole County North) had earlier raised a matter of national importance on the planned increase of school fees by the Uganda National Association of Private Schools and Institutions (UNAPSI) in the third term of the year 2022. The hike, he added, premised on the rising commodity prices.

Consequently, he asked the Education ministry to intervene in the regulation of the school fees as mandated by the Education Act, 2008. He was also desirous that the government comes up with measures to enhance secondary school enrolment in Uganda.

The committee reiterated that the government should take up the matter of regulating fees payable to schools. 

“While considering the motion for a resolution of Parliament urging government to address the exorbitant tuition and non-tuition fees charged by government grant-aided schools, and the matter raised by Mr Samuel Opio Acuti, … the committee concludes that government owes a responsibility to government grant-aided schools as prescribed under constitutional provisions and the Education Act, 2008. However, there is a need for the government to fully meet its obligations by funding government grant-aided schools as envisaged under the aforementioned Act, as this would deter unnecessary increment of school fees,” the committee reads.

While some individual institutions Monitor spoke to on condition of anonymity said they were opposed to the government move, UNAPSI signalled its intent to cooperate with the government on the amendment.
Mr David Mugisha, the UNAPSI executive director, told this newspaper that the amendments are long overdue. He added that education should not be looked at as a privilege, but a service to the country.

The Education ministry was not readily available for a comment. Mr Peter Ogwang, the Sports minister, earlier told this newspaper that the ministry will work with Parliament to ensure things are streamlined.

The law

According to Schedule 3, paragraph 10 (d) of the Act, 2008, the boards of governors of schools are mandated to fix fees and other charges with the approval of the Minister of Education. 

This is augmented by Section 57 (g), which obligates the minister to regulate fees payable at any school. 

In addition, in order to ensure compliance by the government grant-aided schools, Section 7 of the Act grants the Ministry of Education powers to determine which schools to continue to be grant-aided.