May 18, 2024
Policies

Govt Stops School Development Fees

By Martin Kitubi

For decades, various schools, including government-aided schools, have been charging students development fees and collecting financial contributions from them to procure school vans/ buses.

The levies vary depending across schools, but most of them charge about sh50,000 for a school van annually.

According to sources in the education ministry, such charges contribute to school fees increases.

“Some learners have even completed school without seeing any of the projects see the light of day, but the schools continue to levy the fees. However, this trend will change with the planned statutory instrument on fees,” the source said.

According to the draft statutory instrument on fees, parents or students shall not pay development fees or contribute to the purchase of a school van.

The draft instrument has listed several items schools should never ask parents to pay for or contribute to.

The draft says learners will not pay for or buy non-scholastic materials such as bags of cements, iron sheets, sand, bricks and other building materials.

According to the draft instrument, contributions towards purchase of transport facilities especially school bus, vans, lorries or tractors have all been classified as disallowed requirements. Others are monetary contributions towards construction of and maintenance of classrooms, teachers’ houses, pit latrines and toilets.

Statutory Instruments (SIs) are a form of legislation (laws) which allow the provisions of an Act of Parliament to be subsequently brought into force or altered without Parliament having to pass a new Act. They are also referred to as secondary, delegated or subordinate legislation.

Section 99 (5) about the executive authority of Uganda allows the President or any person authorised by the President to issue a statutory instrument. It states that when the instrument is issued, it “may be authenticated by the signature of a minister and the validity of any instrument so authenticated shall not be called in question on the ground that it is not made, issued or executed by the President”.

The arbitrary fees increment by schools and the continuous public outcry, prompted the education ministry to develop the statutory instrument on fees. The draft instrument proposes a school fees cap, and demands audited books of account for all schools before they can apply for fees increment. The draft also proposes penalties for offenders.

The education ministry, through a statutory instrument, wants contributions towards construction of and maintenance of facilities such as classrooms, teachers’ houses, pit latrines and toilets stopped

Allowable Requirements

According to the draft statutory instrument, allowable school requirements are school uniform including sportswear, scholastic material such as books, pencils and papers.

In case it is a day school, the draft statutory instrument says the allowable school requirements will include meals and refreshments.

For students or pupils in a boarding school, the allowable school requirements include personal body effects although the instrument specify which personal body effects.

According to the draft instrument, the learners can have a Bible or Quran, where applicable.

Ceiling

Much as the instrument proposes to allow some school requirements to be paid for by learners, it also sets a ceiling on how much can be asked by the school.

The allowable fees for each learner are uniform, across the levels of education — pre-primary, primary, secondary and vocational institutions.

According to the draft instruments, learners across the above levels, will not be charged more than sh430,000 in allowable requirements.

However, the source said, not all schools will be allowed to charge sh430,000 for the allowable requirements.

“This figure is the ceiling, and it does not mean that everyone will charge that, no. Some will charge even lower and it has to be approved by the proposed school charges and fees regulatory committee of the ministry,” the source said.

How To Pay For The Requirements

According to the draft statutory instrument on fees, a parent or guardian may provide the requirements in kind or pay the equivalent amount of money.

In addition, the draft says the parent or guardian may purchase the items from the school, where the items are available at school or bring the items themselves from any other source.

The ministry has also listed the approved mechanisms within which parents can pay school fees or other school requirements.

These shall include paying fees or charges on the school bank account, or using electronic transfer to the school account, or through a mobile money account using mobile banking. According to the proposed instrument, a parent or guardian may also make an in-kind payment to the school in lieu of school fees or charges.

“Where an in-kind payment is made, the school shall issue a receipt in the names of the pupil or student, indicating the equivalent in cash of the in-kind payment,” the instrument reads.

The instrument proposes that for a school owner who charges or requires a parent or guardian to bring to school, an item which is not prescribed in the statutory instrument, shall apply in writing to the ministry’s School Charges and Fees Regulatory Committee for approval.

The ministry committee shall review the application in 14 days, from the date of receipt of the application and make final and binding decisions, according to the proposed law.

When the committee rejects an application by a school, the committee shall, within five days, in writing, inform the applicant of its decision and state the reason for rejection.

Penalties

The draft statutory instrument on fees also listed sanctions for school owners or heads who charge in excess of what is prescribed.

“A school owner who imposes school requirements in excess of the school requirements prescribed in schedule 5 to these regulations, without the approval of the committee, commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding fifty currency points (sh1m) or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months or both,” the draft instrument reads

Stakeholders Speak Out

Barnabas Mugisha, a parent of five children in Wakiso district, commended the education ministry for seeking to regulate the amount and nature of items schools should ask from parents.

“We have suffered with exorbitant school requirements for so long. At the school my children go to, they ask us to buy two brooms, bag of cement, ream of paper, a dozen toilet paper rolls and a tin of paint per student per term. Students in the boarding section are required to bring more items.

“I was shocked last term when I learnt that our school director’s wife runs a shop where most of these materials are sold. My son told me that the school collects all items from the pupils and keeps them in the store. Only a few items are used and the rest are channelled to the director’s wife’s shop at the end of each school term,” Mugisha said.

Hasadu Kirabira, a school proprietor, says it is not right for a school to charge development fees and contributions towards a school van. At his school, Kirabira said, parents are not required to pay for such.

However, Kirabira, who is also the national chairman for National Private Education Institutions Association (NPEIA), says much as some schools do it, there is need for stakeholders to be consulted on the draft statutory instrument.

“Whereas it is not right to charge development fees, we ask the Government to engage all stakeholders before the proposed instrument is passed and implemented,” he said.

The education ministry has, however, asked the public to stay calm.

In an interview with New Vision on Tuesday, Ketty Lamaro, the education ministry’s permanent secretary, said: “The education ministry is still consulting on the matter and it will communicate to the public at the right time.”

“Yes, consultations are intended to come up with a decision that will be fair to all stakeholders,” she added.

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