The announcement was made by Joyce Kaducu Moriku, the State Minister for Primary Education after deliberations by the Cabinet last week. She said the move is going back to the roots of free education for all through the Universal Primary Education (UPE) and Universal Secondary Education (USE) programs.
Government-funded schools to accept new "No Fees Policy" or lose funding
The government has clipped some wings in the education sector after it asked all foundation bodies that own primary and secondary schools to accept a no-fees policy, among other financial restrictions, or lose funding and grants.
According to the Minister, there are going to be talks between the Ministry and foundation bodies in the coming days to discuss the new direction government is taking and weed out those who will not be comfortable with it.
How foundation bodies operate under the government's UPE and USE programs
Most government-aided schools (74 percent) are owned by communities and faith-based organisations namely; the Catholic Church and Church of Uganda, and the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council.
In the 1960s, government nationalised all schools including those owned by foundation bodies. Later when the current regime took power, the government regained ownership of these institutions.
However, when the UPE program was introduced, the government had few schools to implement it thus opting to cooperate with non-state schools to implement it.
Among those schools, there are currently 105 government-aided schools in the country that are not abiding by the policy of free education.
The government has been providing grants for infrastructure, laboratory equipment, textbooks, and paying teachers, among other things as a way of subsidising education.
Despite receiving government funding, there has been a public outcry against some schools for high fees charges and unreasonable policies imposed on students and parents, conduct which is attributed to private schools.
Revised charges and policies
The idea to remove school fees from the public school system was among the proposals highlighted in the NRM manifesto for 2021 to 2026 for the education sector. According to the Manifesto, there is no excuse for any child of school-going age to miss school.
The challenge has been that although education is free, parents are burdened with additional charges in the form of uniforms, lunch, and the Parents Teacher Association (PTA). Along with school fees, the government has banned these charges including admission fees, examination fees, and insurance, among others.
Kaducu noted that school administrators have been concealing high additional fees in monetary form and in items that can amount to millions despite claiming that they don't charge tuition or school fees.
She also noted that government-aided secondary schools that don't have the USE program will be asked to implement or lose government financial help.
New fees policy
Parents have been informed that they will be responsible for feeding their children by giving learners packed food from home. This is intended to remove loopholes that schools may try to exploit and burden parents.
However, this move contradicts the government's promise to implement a national feeding program to boost nutrition and health while generating wealth for farmers.
Parents will be responsible for providing a school uniform for their child and they will not be required to purchase them from the school. They will only be required to abide by the colour.
The Ministry mentioned that if a school wishes to run a boarding section it must first get clearance because the government does not operate boarding schools.
The government is set to address a number of challenges before implementing the policies. The challenges include the construction of primary schools in all parishes that don't have them and the construction of secondary schools in sub-counties that lack them.
- The projects will require Shs1.98 trillion to construct primary schools at a unit cost of Shs1.2 billion per school.
- According to Ministry data, there are currently 1,617 parishes without a public primary school and 530 sub-counties without a secondary school.
- The government also intends to recruit over 78,880 primary school teachers to beat the target of the teacher-pupil ratio of 1:40.
- It will also rationalise and redistribute teachers at the secondary level where teachers are said to meet the target ratios.
- It also intends to increase the education budget to boost capitation, inspection funds, and construction grants, among other items.
- In order to meet these challenges, the government says the passed resolution will be implemented in the financial year 2024/2025 meaning the second school term in 2024. This is aimed at giving the government enough time to address the challenges mentioned.
The minister said that the government is still discussing a similar matter for the private schools.
“All schools must adhere to the no school fees policy when implementing the UPE and USE programs. Failure to comply will result in the government withdrawing its support for those schools. This decision has been made and we will soon engage in discussions with foundation bodies regarding this matter,” said Joyce Kaducu Moriku, the State Minister for Primary Education.
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