As schools reopen for term one, thousands of parents nationwide find themselves unable to send their children back to school due to the high fees being charged, leading to outrage both in Parliament and among the public.
The situation is particularly dire in Kampala, where less than 50 percent of school-going children have returned to class. Charles Magnot, the director of education and social services at Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), described the situation as “bad.”
The low turnout is attributed to the long list of requirements, high functional charges, and school fees. Magnot urged schools to receive children without imposing barriers and highlighted concerns about some schools banning children from attending due to unpaid fees.
State Minister for Education (Sports), Peter Ogwang, acknowledged the issue and promised government intervention. However, anger brewed in Parliament, with MPs expressing frustration over the government’s inaction in regulating school fees.
Sara Achieng Opendi, a vocal MP on the issue, criticized the high fees charged by grant-aided schools despite receiving public funding. Efforts to regulate fees have been stalled, with motions unresolved in Parliament.
Samuel Opio Acuti, an MP, issued an ultimatum to the ministry before considering legal action, emphasizing the need to standardize fee structures. Opposition figures criticized the government’s failure to introduce policies to manage school fees.
Efforts by the Ministry of Education to address the issue include warnings against fee hikes and promises of increased funding to schools to reduce fees.
However, schools have largely ignored directives from the Ministry, leading to widespread fee increases. This has exacerbated the problem of school dropouts, with families struggling to afford education.
Statistics from various reports highlight the financial burden of education on families, with many resorting to borrowing or facing dropout rates due to high costs.
Despite government efforts to defend the cost of education, stakeholders criticize the lack of effective regulation and the commercialization of the education sector, which has made primary education more expensive than university education in some cases.
Stakeholders Speak Out
Legal experts and educationists criticize the Ministry of Education for failing to regulate fees effectively, with unnecessary requirements adding to the financial burden on parents.
The commercialization of education, reminiscent of Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart,” has led to rising fees and a decline in quality education, forcing some parents to opt for private schools despite the financial strain.