Experts in the field of education are worried about the high cost of education. These worries were expressed during the 10th annual conference on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, where the focus was on addressing the cost of education in Uganda.
This year’s conference theme 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, stressed the importance of standardizing the education sector to reduce the high cost of education. She criticized the government for not regulating fees, noting that government-supported schools sometimes act like private institutions, even though they receive government help with staffing and infrastructure.
Kasule called on the government to remove unnecessary school requirements that add to the financial burden on parents. She pointed out that the rising cost of education forces parents to borrow money, both from formal sources and unofficial lenders, just to pay school fees. She also emphasized the need to understand the unit cost of education.
“Parents have to borrow money to pay school fees, and this number is actually quite high. Many people borrow from individuals and unofficial lenders just to pay school fees. We need to understand the unit cost of education,” she said.
Kasule also expressed concerns about mismanagement in government schools, questioning why these institutions, which receive state funds and have well-established infrastructure, government-employed teachers, and access to loans, still charge high tuition fees.
Samuel Kasule, the Senior Planner for Education and Skills Development at the National Planning Authority (NPA), highlighted the low unit costs of education at all levels and how this affects quality due to insufficient resources. He stressed the importance of well-educated and skilled human resources for the country’s socio-economic development. He argued that continuous investment in human capital is vital for Uganda to achieve its development goals and improve the well-being of its citizens.
Kasule also stated that individuals invest in education to enhance their knowledge, skills, and abilities, which ultimately leads to higher productivity and increased earning potential, aligning with the human capital theory. He suggested that for education to receive adequate funding, the economic system must generate enough revenue, and the political system must prioritize education based on the political economy theory.
He called for equal educational opportunities for everyone, regardless of religion, tribe, gender, or location, to reduce the exploitation of vulnerable individuals.
Experts also stressed the need to allocate sufficient funding for quality control and operations, especially in higher education, to ensure that quality assurance costs are met by the National Council for Higher Education.
Moses Musingo, Assistant Commissioner for Secondary Education at the Ministry of Education, emphasized the necessity of significantly increasing the education budget to provide quality education. He suggested that improving the efficiency of the existing system could help ensure equitable access and enhance the quality of education.
Experts highlighted that enjoying all human rights, including education, is crucial for individuals to thrive and fully realize their potential. While acknowledging the involvement of various stakeholders in achieving this goal, they called on the government to take regulatory action to prevent unregulated third parties from exploiting parents.
Prof. Henry Alinaitwe, the Acting Vice Chancellor, recalled a time when parents paid only 650 shillings per year for government schools, which was relatively affordable. He highlighted 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 compared 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. He urged Uganda to prioritize human capital development for similar growth.