For those who remember the long lines at banks during school fee payment seasons in the 1990s and early 2000s, there’s now a welcome relief as school fees can be paid with a simple press of a mobile phone button. This tradition of parents and students rushing to pay fees repeats itself every school season.
The positive aspect of this story is that, unlike eight or ten years ago, parents and students no longer have to endure the hassle of queuing at banks to pay their school fees. The sight of long queues at banking halls during every school term was a common inconvenience and a sign of how technology has evolved in Uganda.
Nowadays, these queues have been replaced by instant payment solutions that involve minimal or no risk at all. One such solution is SchoolPay, which facilitates instant mobile money payments through banks like PayWay and Interswitch.
Joseph Ndiho Kiiza, the Chairman of Service Cops Group, describes SchoolPay as a comprehensive education platform that serves the entire education value chain, including schools, students, teachers, parents, and financial system operators.
Originally launched in 2016 with Seeta High School as its only user, SchoolPay has now expanded significantly, serving over 10,000 educational institutions and six million learners. This growth is a testament to the vast potential that digital payment innovators can tap into within Uganda’s education system.
SchoolPay operates under Fincom, a payment service provider and operator licensed by the Bank of Uganda. Patrick Muhumuza, the Head of Operations at SchoolPay, recalls the challenges they faced initially when trying to convince people to use mobile money for fee payments in 2016. However, the widespread acceptance of digital payments by parents and schools has motivated them to continue their work.
Digital payments have not only simplified school fee payments but have also facilitated the digitalization and secure storage of educational data and records, an invaluable asset in the digital age.
Moreover, digital payments have significantly reduced instances of forgery, which used to be a serious problem for schools. Real-time online reconciliation of payments has helped schools and institutions to combat fraud effectively.
Schools such as Happy Maria Primary and Nursery School, Makindye Junior Academy, Mirembe Primary School, and St. Marks College, Namagoma, have all benefited from the relief brought by digital payment solutions.
Apart from end-users, aggregators and payment operators believe that digital solutions have revolutionized the education ecosystem over the past decade. Albert Yiga, the Stanbic Head of the Education Sector, notes that digital payments have expanded financial inclusion in schools and advanced the government’s digital agenda.
George Mutekanga, the Ministry of Education Assistant Commissioner in charge of private institutions, emphasizes the importance of including all schools and stakeholders in the drive towards digitization in the education sector.
Service Cops, the company behind SchoolPay and other digital payment platforms, has been at the forefront of innovation in the education space for the past seven years. Mathias Kamugasho, the Managing Director of Service Cops, acknowledges the pivotal role of technology in education and its ability to enhance various aspects of the education sector.
SchoolPay, for instance, offers features like staff data capture, attendance monitoring, e-learning distribution, learner and teacher class attendance tracking, timetable scheduling, human resource management, and purchase and supplier management tools.