Uganda: How to Beat the School Fees Hustle

30 November 2022
Nile Post News (Kampala)
opinion

Parenting is a very fulfilling journey. It carries agony and ecstasy in equal proportions. The agony for many sets in when their children start schooling. That's when the pressure, depression and hypertension set in. They then remember to cut back on expenses and deprive their homesteads of essentials.

Some men take months without buying new clothes in the name of school fees. It is a worthwhile sacrifice that can be planned better.

While it is tempting for us to assume that this happens to only poverty-stricken families, that is very far from the truth. Even well-to-do families get alarming hiccups in school fees payments. They get the same psychological distress when school fees is mentioned. Not because they don't necessarily have the money. It is because 'money disappears' when you most need it.

Now that the December holidays are here, it's time for us to have that school fees conversation when we still have time. December is a big deal to us as Ugandans. We will be throwing cold swigs of our favorite wine at the back of our throats, swaying and whining to the electrifying rhythms of pop music, and dining our way to the lustful pangs of January poverty.

We will torture those November salaries until they ask for water. December salaries will come and join the party because we are Ugandans. We are the life of any party. We are the champions of winging everything, so school fees will be thought about in the second week of January, when we come back from the villages to nothing. With nothing, but the memories of the good times we had with the village people and the empty promises we made to them.

You have the option to be that guy; the stereotypical aspirational spender who always struggles with school fees. Or the option of reading on so you can learn how to manage school fees like a boss, and steer clear of the stress forever.

Change your lifestyle

Take a close look around your closest peers and tell me you don't know someone who earns shs 1 million but pays shs1.5 million for her two children's school fees, rents a shs 800,000 apartment in addition to driving a guzzler. Such is the unfortunate expenditure many people who suffer with school fees live.

We all have lifestyle ambitions. But until your income grows to the level where it can comfortably meet your lifestyle upgrade needs, do not upgrade. Seasoned economists have advised time and again, that your monthly rent should be at most, 30% of your monthly income. Your children's school fees should be a manageable amount of your salary. Cut out the luxuries and pull school fees all the way up to the top 3 on the radar of priorities. Once you start living within your means, you will realize that life, perhaps, isn't that hard at all.

Pick the right schools

The hardest thing to do for many parents is picking a right school. We all want the highest quality education there is and for children to grow in an environment that nurtures all the fundamental aspects of childhood development. By this we are thinking great food, courteous disciplinarian tendencies as opposed to uncouth punishment cultures.

We should all set out to achieve exactly this. But before we pay through our noses because someone recommended a school, maybe take some time to reflect. You do not need to pick a school after the first 3 school option visits especially if you are working on a budget. Do thorough due diligence on all the aspects that matter to you.

There are many schools that offer the same quality of education as your aspirational go-to schools, but without the hefty school fees and the luxurious school campus lifestyles.

Find a school that strikes a great balance between your income capacity and quality of education; then do your best to support your children on what you deem as missing for them to lead the school life you would have dreamed for them if the school doesn't give it to them.

Have a long-term plan

The children are obviously growing. Naturally, the more they grow, the more their needs. Whether your income is growing or not growing (which is the case for many in employment) you need a plan that trumps factors like expenditure growth, inflation or God forbid, your sudden demise or accident that brings about incapacitation. It is easy to assume that factors will change for your benefit since you are putting in the hard work. But assumption is a lazy and very reckless approach to life. The pragmatic thing to do is pick up an education insurance plan. While at it, choose a partner with a track record of expertise.

UAP Old Mutual is a subsidiary of Old Mutual Limited based in South Africa which has been in operation for over 177 years and is in 13 countries. Sign your child(ren) up on Somesa Plus, a consolidated life cover, savings and investment plan that allows you to gradually save for your child's education. It guarantees school fees for when your child joins the educational institution you've selected.

It has additional benefits like waiving future contributions due under the policy in case of your unfortunate demise or disability; Life Cover Benefit which is Payable to a nominated beneficiary immediately on demise of the Policy Owner within the policy period and Child Income Benefit where benefits are payable regularly effective after one year from demise of the policy owner to the end of the accumulation period. That way, you can guarantee your child's education in a school of choice in future.

All you have to do is determine the college, university or the educational institution you dream of for your child, estimate the number of years before your child will enter the educational institution, estimate the number of years your child will be there, estimate the annual fees and then determine how much you can save for your child's education and start.

You can choose to make contributions monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually. You may also choose to pay the premium in a single lumpsum at the inception of the plan. If the policyholder becomes disabled during the contribution period, the company will waive the premiums due, while the disability continues.

Take for instance, after the demise of his parents, UAP Old Mutual Life Assurance paid school fees for Samuel Wamala ('real names not used'), a student at Seeta High School Mukono since 2014 (when Samuel was in Primary 3 at Mother Manjeri Primary school Bweyogerere.) Samuel's mother passed on in 2008 but he had insulated her child's future education with active Somesa plus child education plan. Samuel received an annual child income benefit of shs2,160,000 for 5 years and a lumpsum of shs 18,000,000 at the maturity of the education plan which totaled up to shs28,800,000.

As we speak, there has been no interruption to his studies having been fully supported by this plan and honouring of the promise by UAP Old Mutual Life Assurance Uganda Limited.

As I conclude this piece, it is upon us - young and older parents alike to embrace planning for education through insurance, lifestyle changes and leaving within our means to insulate us from the effects of unforeseen circumstances.

Jacquiline Kalembe Martha is the Marketing and Communications Officer at UAP Old Mutual Life Assurance Uganda Limited.

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