4 November 2002

Uganda: NGOs Blast Masindi Public School Sale

Kampala — THE sale of Masindi Public School has faced criticism from Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) dealing in education activities.

The school was recently reported put up for sale by the Masindi District Council, which wants to buy Kinyara Sugar Works.

The Forum for Education NGOs in Uganda (FENU) is now discussing the possibility of reversing this move. The district bought the school with public funds in 1999 as a district initiative to turn it into a model primary school. Now when the district reverses its move, FENU says the public ought to have an explanation.

As the sale is discussed, no formal communication has been passed, not even to the school.

"We are just hearing that the school is going to be sold. No one consulted us," a teacher at the school said.

"They never came to tell us officially. We only heard about it when the district chairman was campaigning for elections," said a teacher at the school, on condition of anonymity.

"No one knows about the terms under which the school was bought. Do they know how much the parents have contributed to expand the school?" the teacher wondered.

Parents at Masindi Public School constructed four classrooms with the help of the Town Council. They also built another building that houses a store, a small office and two classrooms. They put up three blocks of four latrines each. These structures are on Town Council land and teachers wonder what will become of these structures.

When locals first heard news of the sale, they responded passionately against the move. Some people involved in the protest were beaten by the Police and one, Pardon Rugira, had to spend a night in a police cell.

Masindi Public School was originally owned by Asians. When they left in 1972, the school was left as an abandoned property. The Government placed it under the management of Departed Asians Property Custodian Board.

In 1995, the Board offered the school and the staff quarters for sale to the public. Masindi Town Council applied and was offered the opportunity to purchase the property, but failed. In 1999, the district council decided to purchase this property at sh43m.

John Majara, the Masindi LC5 chairman, says people should not make noise about the sale. Kinyara Sugar Works is a better investment, he said.

"We thought that was a good idea and we decided we can put out our money (from the school) and offer this property out for sale to a private person. If the Government took up shares in the company, it would receive annual income in form of dividends, which it would use to provide better social services."

In any case, Majara said, the Local Government has plans for the children.

"We have identified another site where a school will be constructed and UPE children will be relocated there. We will be able to accommodate 1,200 pupils. We are going to use UPE funds to construct the school."

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