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Schools await ministry directive on tuition fees

As the education sector review workshop came to a close recently, several private school leaders left concerned about a key impending decision by the ministry.

During the workshop, Angella Nabwowe Kasule, a programme officer at the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (Iser), asked about progress on plans to rein in private school owners, who were in the habit of increasing tuition fees, to unaffordable levels.

In response, the workshop heard that the permanent secretary, Alex Kakooza, had set up a committee on tuition fees, and this had made recommendations to his office. The workshop also heard that Kakooza would publish a circular on the matter, next month.

Ministry officials, who would not be pushed to say what those recommendations are, confirm that the circular, which is timed to coincide with the end of the third term, will set up stringent guidelines that schools should follow in setting up tuition fees.

They add that schools that defy the guidelines would face tough sanctions, ranging from a written warning to losing their licensing.

In response, the national secretary for the federation of non-state educational institutions, Patrick Kaboyo expressed concerns that they had not been consulted on the matter.   

“If you design an intervention without the involvement of all relevant stakeholders, it might not realise its intended purpose,” he said.

“We are awaiting an invitation from the ministry to explain our position on the matter. We did not participate in the design of this intervention.”

However, ministry officials insist that the permanent secretary has consulted several players in the sector and appears ready to take action.

When contacted on the sidelines of the workshop, Kakooza admitted that he had already prepared his circular and was getting ready to present it at the appropriate time.

In the meantime, several school owners we talked to say they are concerned that the ministry is planning to punish them without hearing their side.

“They need to hear from us … we are not increasing tuition just for fun,” a school owner said. “We meet many costs in the process of carrying out education and government is unwilling to lift a finger and assist us.

This school owner, who declined to be named for fear of victimisation, added that private schools were looking for goodwill from the government in the form of taxation.

“We have been asking them for several years to at least waive some of the taxes levied against us, to no avail.”

However, Nabwowe Kasule of Iser insists that Kakooza’s action, when it comes, will be a welcome relief to parents, who struggle to take their children to school at astronomical costs.

“You find that a child in nursery school is paying almost the same as a university student … and we are talking millions of shillings. That is unfair,” she said.

mtalemwa@observer.ug

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