Private schools to increase fees 

Pupils share food during lunchtime at school. Private schools are set to increase fees. Photo / Joseph Kiggundu

What you need to know:

  • There are about 18,000 private schools in Uganda, according to National Private Education Institutions Association (NPEIA) statistics.

Private schools across the country plan to increase tuition by as much as 10 percent for next term, citing astronomical rise in food prices.

There are about 18,000 private schools in Uganda, according to National Private Education Institutions Association (NPEIA) statistics.

Dr Waako Muzinyi, the secretary general of the national umbrella association, yesterday said it would be hard to sustain current services levels at schools during term III without increasing charges.

“[The prices of] all things, including food, building materials and fuel are high. The cost of transporting learners and teachers has also gone up; so, for us to equate to the above changes, there is a need to hike school fees to a certain level,” he said.

The cost of living has skyrocketed in the country since the start of the year, pushing various baskets of groceries beyond the affordability of thousands of households, with the lower income earners most affected.

According to Uganda Bureau of Statistics (Ubos), the annual food crop inflation stood at 14.5 percent by June, up from 0.7 percent in February.

 Officials named volatility in fuel and food prices as the main drivers of inflation, which has prompted Bank of Uganda to raise the central bank rate to mop up excess liquidity amid falling Uganda currency value.

 The government has resisted proposals by some Members of Parliament and economists to cut excise tax on a litre of fuel or provide direct subsidies, calling it bad economics.

 President Museveni, who has sided with Finance ministry technocrats against any state intervention, has addressed citizens about the economic hardships at least three times, but provided no solution, including during his Wednesday night televised speech.

In urban neighbourhoods and rural communities, millions of citizens continue to choke on deficit of household essential, a situation made worse by the doubling in the price of a kilogramme of maize flour or posho and beans --- a dominant meal combination at schools and for families.

NPEIA’s Muzinyi, who doubles as a director of three secondary and vocational schools in Kaliro District, yesterday said upping charges is necessary if educational institutions are to prevent reducing the quantity and adulterating the quality of food served to students and pupils.

This, according to some parent, was already happening.

Ms Mable Nakabugo, who has two children in different classes, said they for part of the ending term II complained about being given little food at school, and returning home when hungry.

“I suspect schools wanted to hike the fees in the second term, but they couldn’t because we had already paid the money, she said, adding, “They resorted to giving our children food that is not enough. If they decide to increase the fees, we shall have to obey because things are hard.”

She, however, said raising higher fees would be challenging because she lost her job at the height of Covid-19 pandemic, while her husband’s pay was slashed.

Mr Mirembe Hamza, the NPEIA national publicity secretary, said the price of a sack of maize flour had increased to Shs 360,000, up from Shs120,000 two months ago.

Whereas other parents agreed that increasing school fees was inevitable, they are worried about where to find the money since their earnings have stagnated.

Ms Rebecca Nakiwala, a parent, said that “when you look at it humanly, it [increasing charges] is worth it because how will they (schools) sustain our children at schools when they do not have what to eat?”

“[The price of] everything has gone up, and I cannot blame the schools [for planning to hike fees],” she said.

Another parent, Mr Kenneth Kakande, said he understood the “dilemma” for schools.

“However, I blame our government for paying a deaf ear [to citizens’ cries, he said, adding, “Some governments in other countries have tried to rescue the situation by providing subsidies.”

For instance, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta slashed the price of a kilogramme of maize flour, a main meal for citizens, by half to KShs100 (Shs3,260), saying his government could not fail to intervene when millions of Kenyans were being crowded out of putting food on the family table.

Mr Kakande said he is contemplating shifting his children to a cheaper school.  NPEIA chairperson Hasadu Kirabira said they will confer with parents on a way forward, knowing they too are suffering.

Ministry’s take

The spokesperson of the Education ministry, Mr Denis Mugimba, said they had not approved fees increment despite the push by some private schools.

“Each school is supposed to submit the request to have their fees hiked at an individual level. The ministry assesses the needs of that particular school before granting permission. For now, we have not cleared anyone,” he said.

As a result of the hardship, leaders of some schools have decided to close institutions a fortnight before official closure date.

What some stakeholders say...

Susan Birungi, HR Officer

“It’s absurd because some parents have not completed paying tuition for their children unless government wants children to drop out of school.’’

Dr Isaac Okullo

“The cost of living has gone up, including the cost of maintaining schools. The resource base hasn’t changed, people are getting poorer.’’

Solome Luyombo, HR officer

“Given the current situation, they [schools] are justified, but they will struggle to collect the money. This term, many parents haven’t paid all the school dues.’’

Susan Kiwanda, businesswoman

 “The parents are already struggling with school fees. If government is doing that, it is injustice to parents because the children will remain at home.’’

Deo Rubumba, Lawyer

“The government should realise there is a problem in the economy. They should find ways of controlling inflation rather than increasing school fees.’’

Decorations Mabzira, account

“With the high cost of living, it is a surprise that the government leaving private schools to take such  a measure, instead of subsidising requirements.’’

Juliet Rwatooro, administrator

“The price of school requirements is rising all the time yet the salaries have not increased. Most schools are private due to poor quality education in government schools.’’

Harrison Debondo, driver

“We cannot thank government for such a move.  The price of school requirements has more than doubled. Shall we afford to educate our children in future?’’

Rogers Semakula, accountant

“If you allow schools to increase fees and yet salaries have not, then you don’t care about the plight of parents.’’

Alex Arinaitwe, accountant

“The parents are not going to honour their obligations because they cannot afford the cost of things.’’

Compiled by Stephen Otage