Private schools reject new school fees policy
What you need to know:
- The schools owners say whereas the government-aided schools are highly subsidised by the government, either through salary payments, tax waivers or infrastructural development, private schools are technically on their own.
Private schools owners across the country have rejected the planned government school fees regulation policy that, if approved by Cabinet, will block them and their opposite members from government-aided schools from charging beyond set caps.
Addressing journalists at their offices in Kampala yesterday, Mr Hasadu Kirabira, the chairperson of the National Private Education Institution Association (NPEIA), said if left unchecked, the policy will push private proprietors out of business.
“The Ministry of Education and parents are not aware that promoters of the private schools sector in Uganda invest huge sums of money to establish globally comparable schools. Therefore, they are entitled to reasonable returns on their investment,” Mr Kirabira said, adding: “If tuition fees are controlled by the government, which applies a uniform ceiling on fees, education quality will suffer with supplementary co-curriculum and sports education as the first causality.”
Mr Kirabira added that whereas the government-aided schools are highly subsidised by the government, either through salary payments, tax waivers or infrastructural development, private schools are technically on their own.
He further proffered that regulating fees the private schools charge makes no sense, especially since some of the government-aided schools slap their pupils with higher bills.
The Schools Fees Regulation Policy, which is still being considered, sets the minimum and maximum schools fees and requirements all schools should follow. Failure to adhere to set standards attracts a fine between Shs1 million and Shs20 million or a one-year imprisonment.
According to the policy seen by the Monitor, schools are slated to charge at least Shs260,000 or at most Shs1.6 million, depending on the nature of the schools, location, staff salaries, feeding of learners and administration costs, among others.
The policy also prohibits schools from charging students’ requirements that are not set by the schools charges and fees regulations committee. Owners of schools, who defy this, will be subjected to a fine of Shs20 million or one-year’s imprisonment.
All schools are also prohibited from operating without a bank account or a registered school mobile money account.
Mr Kirabira said the suggested fees regulation policy is against the liberalisation policy that the National Resistance Movement government implemented years back.
He cited “other service sectors such as health, security and transport whose existence and prices are determined by free market forces of demand and supply.”
Mr Kirabira also warned that the suggested policy will ultimately trigger a collapse in the quality of education since affected parties will do some belt tightening.
The draft regulation policy comes at a time when parents were choking on exorbitant fees from both government-aided and private schools. Some schools had, for instance, started charging as high as Shs3 million for the boarding section, in addition to other school requirements much to the chagrin of the public.
While the Education ministry believes the policy will call schools to order, some proprietors of private schools have threatened to withdraw their services if the policy gets the green light.
Dr Stephen Waako, the secretary general of NPEIA and the director of Kaliro schools, said private schools went through tough times during Covid-19 pandemic and that most are still recovering from the effects of paying loans. He added that the current inflationary pressures have compounded matters.
“If the government is tired of us, they should tell us to withdraw our services and leave the government to take over,” Dr Waako said.
He added: “We can invest our money in other businesses where we are not oppressed and are able to get tax waivers. We can mobilise our partners and close our schools.”
Dr Denis Mugimba, the Education ministry spokesperson, offered to substantively comment after Cabinet had pronounced itself on the draft policy.
“What if we present it before the Cabinet and they change the things we have proposed?” he asked.
In August last year, the State Minister for Education, Dr Joyce Kaducu, told Parliament that the government had, basing on their mandate in the Education Act 2008, submitted a statutory instrument regarding the matter to the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs for scrutiny.
The minor details as provided by the minister, however, indicated that the instrument will do little in capping the charges.
“There are procedures for any school to increase fees through the board of governors, the school management committee which has got a representative of the parents and other stakeholders,” Ms Kaducu said.
“As a ministry, we have taken measures to ensure the school fees are within the framework as approved by the board of governors or the committee,” she added.