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Fees hike freeze bites private schools

Private school owners are waiting to see what will happen to institutions which have ignored a ministry directive not to increase fees this year without written permission.

The Education and Sports ministry late last year said it would withdraw the license of any offending school. When private school owners met officials last week at Hotel Africana, Kampala, it had been anticipated that the school fees issue would be discussed. Instead, members tiptoed around the sensitive subject.

“We had wanted to raise this matter with the ministry, since we are struggling to make ends meet, but were advised that it is not the right time to discuss it,” one school owner said.

In November 2017, permanent secretary Alex Kakooza issued 10 guidelines for all schools. Top on this list, was: “No school, private or government, shall increase school fees in the year 2018 for whatever reason without written authorization from the permanent secretary Ministry of Education and Sports and/or chief administrative officer/town clerk.”

His circular warned: “Stern disciplinary action shall be taken against any head of school operating contrary to the above guidelines. Any private school that fails to observe these guidelines shall have its license/registration certificate withdrawn”.

The school term officially starts next week and some owners have quietly increased tuition fees, risking the wrath of Education minister Janet Museveni who has personally spoken out against what is deemed to be extortionate fees charged by some private schools.

On the sidelines of the Africana meeting, school heads denied they had increased tuition fees.

“The circular was signed by Kakooza, but we think that this was the work of a power far higher than him; so, we need to tread cautiously this time,” one head teacher said.

But some schools have increased fees by about Shs 50,000 and Shs 100,000 in the hope they won’t be found out. The Africana meeting saw the Federation of Non-state Education Institutions (Fenei) focusing on the ministry’s looming closure of more than 1,000 unlicensed schools.

The federation appealed for an extension of the grace period.

However, Kakooza said: “We gave them enough time, all the way from 2016 … those who have not been licensed will be shut down. There is no room for further discussion on this matter.”

mtalemwa@observer.ug   

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