Experts in education have warned that the cost is bankrupting parents.
These concerns were raised during the 10th annual conference on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, which focused on addressing the cost of education in Uganda.
The theme of this year's conference was "Human Capital Development: The Cost of Education in the Era of the Third National Development Plan."
Angella Kasule, the executive director of the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights, emphasizes the need for standardization in the education sector to alleviate the high cost of education.
She criticizes the government for neglecting its responsibility to regulate fees, noting that government-supported schools are behaving like private institutions while still receiving government assistance in terms of staffing and infrastructure.
"The government saying it is not regulating fees, I think is totally unacceptable and is also against the law because when you look at government schools, they are behaving like private institutions and yet government supports them in terms of staffing, infrastructure," she said.
Kasule urges the government to eliminate unnecessary school requirements that contribute to the financial burden on parents.
She highlights that the escalating cost of education is resulting in parents resorting to borrowing money, both from formal sources and unregistered entities, solely to pay school fees. Kasule emphasizes the importance of understanding the unit cost of education.
"Parents have to borrow to pay school fees and this number is actually higher. They are a lot of private borrowing from individuals from unregistered entities just for people to pay school fees. We need to understand the unit cost of education," she stated.
She also raises concerns about mismanagement in government schools, questioning why these institutions, which receive state funds, have well-established infrastructure, government-employed teachers, and access to loans, still charge exorbitant tuition fees.
Samuel Kasule, the Senior Planner for Education and Skills Development at the National Planning Authority (NPA), emphasizes the low unit costs of education at all levels and the adverse impact on quality due to inadequate resources.
He underscores the significance of well-educated and skilled human resources for the country's socio-economic transformation. He asserts that consistent investment in human capital is crucial for Uganda to achieve its development goals and improve the overall well-being of its citizens.
Kasule argues that individuals invest in education to enhance their knowledge, skills, and abilities, which leads to higher productivity and increased earning potential, in line with the human capital theory.
He also suggests that for education to be adequately funded, the economic system must generate sufficient revenue, and the political system must prioritize education based on the political economy theory.
He calls for equal educational opportunities regardless of religion, tribe, gender, or location, aiming to minimize exploitation of vulnerable individuals.
Experts also emphasize the need to allocate adequate financing for quality control and operations, particularly in higher education, to ensure meeting quality assurance costs at the National Council for Higher Education.
Moses Musingo, Assistant Commissioner for Secondary Education at the Ministry of Education, highlights the necessity of significantly increasing the education budget to provide quality education. He suggests that improving the efficiency of the existing system can help achieve equitable access and enhance the quality of education.
Experts emphasized that enjoying the full spectrum of human rights, including education, is essential for individuals to thrive and fully realize their humanity. While acknowledging the involvement of multiple stakeholders in realizing this goal, they call upon the government to take regulatory action to prevent exploitation of parents by unregulated third parties.
Prof. Henry Alinaitwe, the Acting Vice Chancellor, recalls a time when parents paid only 650 shillings per annum for government schools, which was relatively affordable.
He highlights the current financial strain faced by many parents who struggle to afford the high fees imposed by schools, often unnecessarily inflated due to duplication.
Prof. Alinaitwe compares the development of South Korea, a country with a smaller geographical size and fewer natural resources than Uganda, emphasizing how education has been a critical asset for their progress and urging Uganda to prioritize human capital development for similar growth.