Govt should regulate school fees

Godfrey Tumwizere 

What you need to know:

  • The effects of the high cost of education include reduced access to education, income, and gender inequality, which often result in economic consequences.  

In line with the 1992 Government White Paper on Education, Uganda liberalised the education sector to allow private actors supplement government efforts in providing education. This privatisation aimed at increasing access to education and improve the quality of teaching and learning. 

While it may have achieved some success, it has also resulted in unintended adverse consequences. One of the most pressing issues is the unprecedented surge in school fees. The repercussions are felt deeply by parents and students. 

The disparity between the cost of secondary education and university fees is deeply troubling. It raises concern about the long-term consequences for Uganda’s youth. Education is a fundamental right, and when it becomes expensive, it limits opportunities. This can lead to a generation with limited access to quality education, ultimately impacting the nation’s development and prospects. 

Education is the primary means individuals acquire skills, knowledge, and capabilities necessary to contribute to the workforce. A large population without access to quality education will not be able to fulfil its potential in the labour market. The affordability and accessibility of education in Uganda are intimately linked to the country’s ability to harness the demographic dividend.

The effects of the high cost of education include reduced access to education, income, and gender inequality, which often result in economic consequences.  

High school fees are a significant deterrent to accessing secondary education. Many parents are forced to withdraw their children from school prematurely, limiting their potential and future opportunities. Only families with substantial financial resources will afford quality education, which will entrench societal disparities where. especially girls are often affected. 

This perpetuates gender inequalities in access to education and limits women empowerment. Overall, an under-educated population will harm a country’s economic development as high school fees hinder the development of a skilled workforce and innovation, both essential for economic growth.

As the frustration of parents grows, the dissatisfaction with the government’s inability to regulate school fees inevitably builds, which increases the likelihood of social unrest. Access to quality education is a fundamental right, and no student should be denied this opportunity. It is incumbent upon the government to regulate fees, promote flexibility in payment options, and create avenues for financial assistance.

Uganda urgently needs a comprehensive school fees policy that addresses these issues. The government should introduce and fast-track the implementation of policies that regulate school fees, preventing exorbitant charges and ensuring fees are reasonable and justifiable based on the services provided. 

Schools should be encouraged, if not mandated, to allow parents to pay in instalments. This would ease the financial burden on families and ensure education remains accessible, but also establish mechanisms for schools to justify their fees and ensure transparency about their fee structures and expenditures, preventing unjustified fee hikes.

Through these measures, Uganda will ensure its youth have the optimal access to education necessary for a brighter future. A well-educated and skilled workforce is essential for realising the economic benefits associated with a youthful population. 

Therefore, addressing the issue of skyrocketing school fees and ensuring equitable access to quality education is a matter of social justice and a strategic imperative for Uganda’s long-term economic development and prospects. The skyrocketing school fees are a critical issue that demands immediate attention. By addressing this issue, Uganda can pave the way for a brighter, more equitable future for its citizens and the nation.

Mr Godfrey Tumwizere is a specialist in Population and Development. 
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