By Mary Asujo
MPs have rejected the ministry’s justification for Headteachers of government-aided schools to continue charging exorbitant tuition and non-tuition fees claiming that the current hike in commodity prices mainly the costs associated with meals provided to learners.
The issue was raised in motion for a resolution of parliament for government to address the exorbitant tuition and non-tuition fees charged by government grant aided schools, during a plenary sitting on Tuesday after the chairperson of the committee John Ntamuhiira Twesigye also MP Bunyaruguru County, said as a committee they feel that there is a plan by some of the government-aided schools to exploit parents.
Considering the fact that the current economic situation has affected everybody, he added that the schools should not use high commodity of prices to exploit parents. The MPs including Jenifer Alanyo UPDF Representative and Bunya West MP, and Henry Bagiire Aggrey wondered why government should continue giving statutory grants to government aided schools that are charging exorbitant tuition and non-tuition.
In response, Education State Minister Dr. Chyresostom Muyingo revealed that in the several discussions held with different stakeholders, Head teachers of some government grant-aided schools cited inadequate capitation provided by government, repayment of loans whose interest had accumulated during the COVID lockdown, general increase in commodity prices that have enhanced operational costs among others.
“The Ministry has made progress with regard to the Statutory Instrument to regulate the school fees. We have drafted the regulations which are now before the Solicitor General for guidance. Upon receipt of the guidance from the Solicitor General, we shall come before you honourable members to seek your views in addition to consulting other key stakeholders,” Muyingo noted.
According to the Ministry while all government aided primary schools are under UPE this is not the case for secondary schools. “For secondary, we have those that are under USE/UPOLET and those that are non-USE which do not receive support in all three categories. These include the 117 Traditional schools that only receive Wage and Capital development when funds are available.” Muyingo noted.
The Minister argued that it’s true that government aided schools have been faced with the challenge of staffing for a long time. This was also identified as one of the drives that force these schools to either charge fees or encroach on capitation grants to pay staff who are not on the pay roll.
Muyingo told the house that the ministry is committed to addressing the issue of arbitrary increase of schools charges. Section 57 (g) of the Education (primary, primary and post primary) Act No. 13 of 2008 empowers the minister of Education and Sports by Statutory Instrument, to make regulations for fees payable at any school.
In April 2021, the ministry constituted a Committee of Technical Officers to draft a Statutory Instrument to regulate, among other things: The fees and school charges payable in pre-primary and post-secondary institutions.
“This Financial year Shs 13bn has been provided for the recruitment of additional 2,654 primary Teachers in selected Local Governments based on staffing gaps giving priority to those that are terribly understaffed. A circular has already been issued to the respective Accounting Officers to embark on the recruitment exercise to ensure that the wage is absorbed,” said Dr Muyingo.
“Hon. Minister, the situation is not good. Some of the government aided schools upcounty are eating the traditional food of posho and beans and yet they perform very well. Since you are committed to handle this matter, let the other schools deal with the priorities for now as they wait for you to come up with solutions,” said Mr Tweisgye.