20 April 2014

Uganda: Private Schools Raise Term II Fees

Some private schools have increased tuition fees for the second term of the 2014 academic year, a random survey conducted by The Observer indicates.

The second term begins May 19th, although many private schools plan to resume on May 11th.

According to the end of first term circulars sent to parents, most of the affected schools attribute the increment in school dues to rising prices of food and other school supplies.

"Considering the high cost of living, the fees structure has been adjusted to Shs 930,000," says one circular from Uganda Martyrs Secondary School, Namugongo, which is signed by head teacher Henry Kasasa.

In the first term, Namugongo charged Shs 832,500, meaning the school has increased its tuition fees by 11.7 per cent. Kabojja Junior School, in Kampala, increased its fees for term II by 22 per cent to Shs 1.1 million. New pupils joining this primary school in the second term will pay Shs 1.3 million.

"Owing to the current prevailing market prices, we have been forced to review our fees structure upwards effective next term," says a circular from Kabojja head teacher Richard Okiror.

"It is aimed at coping with the prevailing market prices and to improve on our service delivery. This was taken as the only alternative at our disposal if we have to continue offering quality services to the children."

One parent with a child at Kabojja feels the fees increment at the end of the first term is tantamount to arm-twisting by the school. The parent, who requested anonymity due to fear of victimisation, argued that the schools had chosen to increase fees after the first term because parents - including those who can't afford the higher dues - are short on alternatives since every school is well into the academic year.

"If this increment had been announced in the third term [of the 2013 academic year], I would have considered my options," said the parent. "I would have had time to look for another school. But now we are in the middle of the academic year and I can't change my child from the school."

Many private schools closed for the first term holidays on April 17, one week earlier than the closure date set by the education ministry in its official school calendar. Most public schools are scheduled to close after the Easter holiday, on April 25.

Turkish Light College also increased its school dues for boarding students by Shs 50,000 to Shs 1.35m. The school did not, however, provide any explanation in its circular for the fees raise. The spokesman of the education and sports ministry, Patrick Muinda, said there was no policy mandating schools to increase tuition fees in a particular term of any academic year.

"Government regulates everything that schools do, but when it comes to private schools, there are guidelines that are given to private schools. But because it is private, the guidelines [only] guide them. That is why we are appealing to them now not to [raise fees]," he said.

The education ministry says there are about 4,000 private schools in the secondary sub-sector alone, more than double the number of government-funded schools. This means that a significant number of Ugandans are affected by the uncoordinated increase in tuition fees.

Muinda, however, said government had public-private partnerships with many private schools, to which it sends financial and other forms of resources.

"If these schools raise fees, we appeal to them to be sympathetic because we send a lot of resources to them," he said.

Muinda says for private schools that have partnered with government, the ministry sends resources to rehabilitate their laboratories, construction materials and capitation grants. However, some schools that closed last week, such as Kawempe Muslim School, whose first term ended on April 19, did not increase their tuition fees.

Kawempe Muslim charges Shs 750,000. Also not increasing their fees for next term is Greenhill Academy, which maintained it at Shs 1 million. The school had, however, upped its fees for first term by Shs 100,000. Some of the schools that raised their tuition fees describe them as "all inclusive," meaning that they do not impose any other extra charges on the students.

However, those that did not increase their fees have a raft of activities and items that they have asked parents to pay for. For instance, Kakungulu Memorial School in Kibuli, which maintained tuition fees for non-candidate classes at Shs 650,000 and candidate classes at Shs 670,000, says senior five and six students offering food and nutrition as a subject will pay Shs 35,000 for their practicals in second term.

Senior four, five and six art students will pay Shs 7,000 to attend an art exhibition at Kampala International University on June 5, while candidate classes will pay Shs 50,000 as "art fee" for their end of year practical in the national examination.

Entrepreneurship students (S.6 & S.4) at Kakungulu Memorial will pay Shs 25,000 for "field studies", while Luganda students in the candidate classes will pay Shs 6,000 - Shs 7,000 to sit Luganda Teachers Association mock examinations. The Luganda students will also attend two seminars at Shs 6,000 each and watch a play for Shs 5,000.

"Students who never labeled their property should do so in the holidays or come back with Shs 3,000 for labeling to avoid theft cases," says the Kakungulu Memorial school circular, signed by the head teacher, Jamil Buwembo.

Lugazi Mixed School, Naalya requires its food and nutrition students to report for second term with an apron and head gear, table linen, food net, three tea towels, four serving plates, two glasses, table mats and knife, cutlery (knives, spoons and forks), as well as one plastic sieve and knife.

Other charges that parents of Lugazi Mixed School, Naalya will have to contend with are Shs 200,000 per student for a study tour to western Uganda, Shs 30,000 per student for a senior six entrepreneurship project trip.

An agriculture trip to Bukalasa Agricultural College will cost each student Shs 30,000, a senior three trip to the agriculture show in Jinja district will cost Shs 10,000, an economics study tour for senior six costs Shs 30,000 per student while a senior one and two education trip to Entebbe will cost each student Shs 30,000.

Commenting about such charges, Muinda said private schools have their own programmes, which are agreed upon by the school management and the parents.

"These activities are usually not compulsory," he said. "A parent may not usually need to pay for them... . We have not received any complaint from any parent saying they have been given [such additional] fees that are compulsory."

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