Private school owners ask govt for Shs500b relief fund

Thursday October 14 2021
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Igara East MP Michael Mawanda appears before the Education Committee at Parliament yesterday. PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA

By Arthur Arnold Wadero

Proprietors of pri­vate schools have asked the govern­ment to create a relief fund for them of at least Shs500 billion to enable them smoothly prepare for the reopening of schools in January next year.

The Igara East MP, Mr Michael Ma­wanda, who brought the request be­fore Parliament’s Education commit­tee yesterday, said the fund will al­so enable the school owners recover from the shocks induced by the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns.

He also asked that the money be availed by end of December to enable school owners plan accordingly.

“According to the information we have, bank loans are now about Shs1.7 trillion, but we are not saying the gov­ernment should shoulder that, we are looking at that component of Cov­id-19, which comes to about Shs500b, which is not a lot of money,” Mr Ma­wanda said.

He added: “Government can be able to restructure something so that these institutions are able to reopen. These schools need a fund if government is reopening in January, there [should] be a fund in December.”

Mr Mawanda said schools will also use the funds to buy hand sanitisers, soap and temperature guns.

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MPs reject move

However, a section of lawmakers dis­missed the suggestion, saying many private school owners have in the past charged exorbitant fees and other ma­terials.

“Although the government can sup­port private schools, many are owned by money-oriented people, they have turned education into a social econo­my by baking students, and you only deceive this country that you are train­ing these children yet they can’t de­fend their degrees,” Mr Charles Onen, the Gulu East MP, said.

The Jonam County MP, Mr Em­manuel Ongiertho and Shadow Ed­ucation minister Brendah Nabuken­ya agreed with their colleague, saying private school bosses had been tough and unfairly treated their workers with many being poorly paid.

“I think we need to know clearly if Parliament supports this motion, how is it going to affect schools fees, we would want to support private schools but we would want to see fairness. How does it positively justify the high fees charges?” Ms Nabukenya asked.

Mr Mawanda’s proposal is in line with the motion that the Kyankwan­zi Woman MP, Ms Christine Sendawu­la, tabled recently, urging government to bail out private schools and institu­tions.

Ms Sendawula told Parliament that at least 3,500 people lost their jobs due to the closure of schools.

“The education-related debt burden is close to Shs2 trillion with increas­ing interest charged at 22 per cent to 26 per cent daily. Some schools are at the verge of being auctioned. The loss of revenue has impacted the em­ployment capacity in the private ed­ucation sector with more than 3,500 teachers laid off,” Ms Sendawula said.

This is the first time private schools owners have asked government to res­cue them on the matter.

In August, the Minister of Finance, Mr Matia Kasaija, told the owners to sell off their property and pay off the loans if they don’t want their schools to be auctioned.

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