Private school owners have dismissed as discriminatory a proposed policy by the government to regulate all private schools across the country.
The proposed National Policy on Private Provision of Education seeks to regulate school fees, recruitment of teachers and infrastructure development, among others, in all private schools.
Mr Christopher Kaweesa, the head of legal, research and planning of Proprietors of Private Education Institution in Uganda, said before the government moves to regulate fees in private schools, it should start with the traditional government-aided schools that are charging exorbitant fees.
“From experience, most historical government-aided schools impose inflexible, exorbitant fees charged under PTA [Parents Teachers’ Association]. No private schools will survive by doing this, instead, private schools reduce fees sometimes and offer bursaries to needy students,” Mr Kaweesa told Saturday Monitor on Friday.
“There is one government-aided school I won’t mention here, that is charging Shs2m per student on top of the Shs500,000 government releases per student. This means each child is charged Shs2.5m, yet they are not subjected to income tax. There is no private school charging that,” he added.
Mr Kaweesa said the government noted limited compliance with policy and quality standards by private schools, poor infrastructure, libraries, sanitations and poor structures in most private schools.
But he noted that some government school also have dilapidated buildings just like some private schools. He said the government should not look at infrastructure in only private schools but also in government schools.
Mr Kaweesa said instead of the government regulating recruitment of teachers in private schools, it should put the 3,500 teachers employed by private schools on government payroll.
He also said the government should waive income tax for all private schools and equip their laboratories and libraries with all the required books for the role they play.
Mr Kaweesa, however, said the association is not against the policy, but the government should strike a balance in implementing this policy so that it cuts across both government and private schools.
However, the assistant commissioner, policy analysis from the Ministry of Education, Mr Brighton Barugahare, said private school owners should not see this policy as discriminatory and desist from saying it is targeting them because the policy cuts across.He said the government is slated to set a minimum fee that should be charged by all schools across the country.
According to Uganda Bureau of Statistics schools mapping report 2019, private schools enrolls 3.4 million learners at primary level and 1.2 learners at secondary level.
The new policy
The Ministry in the policy paper notes that most private schools charge fees which are not determined in line with the regulations that require participation of parents through the schools management committees.
The ministry further notes that even low-fee private schools ask for non-tuition fees for a variety of items such as school uniforms, infrastructure development, school vehicle acquisition and sundries, which contribute to prohibitive cost of education for low income families hence the need to regulate fees charged in private schools.
The ministry proposes to prescribe the procedures for recruitment of teachers and conditions of services after it established that there is a high proportion of untrained teachers in private education institutions.
The ministry in the policy papers notes that most private schools are using untrained teachers, especially in core subjects such as Mathematics and English language.
The ministry also notes that most private schools employ staff without formal contracts and are not appropriately remunerated, saying if the government harmonises conditions of service, these teachers will settle in one place and deliver quality work.
The Ministry of Education also notes that most private schools have not invested adequately in infrastructure and facilities such as science laboratories, libraries, sports games facilities and equipment, something that has resulted in private schools focusing on arts subjects.