Kampala — Members of Parliament on the Education and Sports Committee have resolved to investigate government-aided schools for excessive fees for tuition and material requirements.
The MPs will examine extent of compliance with directives issued by the Ministry of Education, according to Ms Sheila Mwine (Kiruhura District), who chairs the committee.
The decision to start the investigations was made after a meeting with officers from the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights, an NGO, who petitioned Parliament, challenging the high tuition and non-tuition fees charged on parents/guardians by government-aided schools.
Other MPs included Geoffrey Macho (Busia Municipality), Hellen Adoa (Serere) and Maria Gorreti Ajilongo (Kaberamaido)
The MPs agreed that there is need to investigate schools and ministry officials about extra charges inform of "school requirements" that far exceed what is necessary.
The petition was first presented to the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, in February last year, before it was forwarded to the committee for further handling.
The petitioners contend that government-aided schools are not supposed to charge fees on students undertaking the Universal Primary and Secondary Education programmes since the government funds them through capitation grants.
"These schools are not supposed to charge any tuition and non-tuition fees save for circumstances where parents agree through the Parents -Teacher Associations and Board of Governors to provide food for their children," the petition reads in part.
Reject extra fees
The petitioners further argue that schools undertaking the private-public partnerships to support government initiatives should also not charge extra fees on learners.
Ms Safina Nakulima, a senior programmes manager at the NGO, told MPs that whereas government suspended universal education in under private-public partnerships, there are continuing students under the scheme.
She also said there are some public and religious-founded schools that receive government funding for salaries of teachers and support for infrastructure development but are not implementing Universal Secondary Education programmes.
The petitioners said such schools charge both tuition and non-tuition fees but have "over the years hiked the cost of accessing them with skyrocketing charges to match those of high end private schools despite receiving state funding."
As a result of these high fees, Ms Nakulima said government-aided schools have become a preserve of a few children from rich families.
"Children from poor backgrounds who excel cannot get admitted in government-aided schools because of high tuition and non-tuition fees," she said.
The petitioners also castigated the Ministry of Education for not following up the implementation of its directives own.
The NGO's executive director, Ms Salima Namusobya, asked Parliament to set up an inquiry into the high tuition and non-tuition fees charged by government aided secondary schools and primary schools.
"When the committee deems it appropriate, it should widen the scope to the entire education sector, including private schools, some of which claim to be offering low cost education yet in actual sense, they are compromising the quality of education they offer," Ms Namusobya said.
A recent report on education and schooling in Uganda by Twaweza, civil society organisation, revealed that paying excessive fees in both primary and secondary schools is the biggest challenge faced by parents in the country.
The report titled "Preparing the Next Generation, Uganda's Opinions and experiences on education" indicated that 70 per cent of parents take their children to UPE schools and that close to 80 per cent the number continue paying more money to schools in form of extra tuition, food, construction work and support for volunteer teachers.
St Henry's Kitovu S1 ADMISSION 2017
School Fees 4,400
Centenary Project Fund 120,000
School uniform 200,000
Staff project 40,000
Pastoral care 35,000
Development Fund 120,000
Needy student's fee 10,000
Generator fuel 30,000
Medical fee 25,000
School fees iInsurance 35,000
Guidance and counselling 10,000
Property insurance fee 15,000
PTA membership fee 10,000
Internet & Computer Centre 25,000
Bank charge 3,000
Budo Junior School ADMISSION 2015
School fees 988,500
Devt & maintenance 400,000
School uniform(2) 66,000
Games kit (1) 34,000
Day wear (2) 50,000
Sweater (1) 32,000
Stockings (2) 18,500
Mattress, cover, bucket & basin 162,000
Bank charges 2,500