Uganda Private school owners across the nation have rejected the proposal of government policy to regulate school fees. If the cabinet approves it, this policy will prevent private school owners and their opposites who run government-aided schools from charging more than the predetermined limits.
Mr. Hasadu Kirabira, the chairperson of the National Private Education Institution Association (NPEIA) warned that the policy would drive independent company owners out of business if it is not stopped. He made the statement while addressing the reporters at their office in Kampala yesterday.
According to Mr. Kirabira, Parents and the Ministry of Education are unaware of the enormous amounts of money that Uganda’s private school industry supporters invest to build competitive institutions. He added that they should therefore receive reasonable returns on their investment.
He also said that if the government sets a uniform cap on tuition fees, the quality of education will suffer, with extracurricular activities and sports education being the first casualties.
Private schools are theoretically on their own, whereas government-aided schools receive substantial financial support from the government in the form of salary payments, tax, exemptions, or infrastructure, said Mr. Kirabira.
He also argued that it makes no sense to regulate tuition fees for private schools, especially because some government-supported institutions charge their students more.
The School Fees Regulation Policy, which is still under consideration, establishes the minimum and maximum school fees and requirements that all schools must adhere to. A fine of between Sh1 million and Sh20 million or one year in prison is imposed for breaking the rules.
According to the policy, schools are supposed to charge a minimum of approximately Shs260,000 or a maximum of Shs1.6 million, depending on the type of school, its location, the salaries of its employees, how much it costs to feed its students, and other factors.
Additionally, the policy prevents schools from imposing student requirements that were not established by the committee in charge of setting tuition and fees for institutions.
Owners of schools that disobey this will be fined Shs20 million or put in jail for a year. All schools must have a bank account or a registered school mobile money account in order to be effective.
According to Mr. Kirabira, the liberalization program that the National Resistance Movement government put in a palace years ago is incompatible with the suggested fee regulation approach.
He mentioned other services like industries, health, security, and transportation, whose existence and costs are decided by forces of supply and demand in a free market.
Mr. Kirabira further warned that the policy proposed by the Ugandan government will ultimately result in a decline in educational quality since impacted parties will tighten their belts.
Parents were suffocating on high fees from both government-aided and private schools when the initial regulation policy was released.
To the dismay of the general public, some schools had begun charging as much as Shs3 million for the boarding component in addition to other educational needs.
Private school owners committed to cease providing their services if the policy is approved, despite the Education Ministry’s belief that it will force schools to behave better.
The Covid-19 pandemic caused difficult times for private schools. Dr. Stephen Waako, the secretary general of the National Private Education Institution Association and the director of Kaliro Schools said that the majority of the schools which had a difficult time during the pandemic are still recovering from the impacts of repaying loans. The current inflationary pressures, he continued, have made things worse.
Dr. Waako argued that if the government is tired of the private institutions, they are ready to withdraw their services and the government could take over these institutions.
He added that they could leave the private schools behind and invest that money in any other businesses that don’t oppress them and will have only certain tax deductions.
According to Dr. Waako, If the government is going to impose the new policy over the private institutions, they will be dispersing the schools.
In August last year, State Minister for Education Dr. Joyce Kaducu suggested to Parliament that the government had sent a draft law pertaining to the issue to the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs for review in accordance with the authority granted to them by the Education Act of 2008.
But, the brief details given by the minister, however, suggested that the instrument will be a little limiting in the prices.
According to Mr. Kaducu, any school that wishes to increase tuition must follow certain protocols. These include consulting with the board of governors and the school management committee, both of which are composed of parents and other investors.
She added that as a Ministry, they have taken enough steps to make sure that school fees follow the guidelines established by the committee or the board of governors.