High costs hampers education, survey

By Nebert Rugadya

High costs of education is the main reason why many school-age children are not in school, while a bigger number are in schools that they would not prefer if they had the resources, according to a survey.

About 10 million children are in school, from primary to upper secondary at any one time. However, a count of children between 14 and 24 years showed that 52 percent had dropped out of primary school in 2014, according to the Education Policy and Data Centre.

Only 10 percent had dropped out after completing Primary Seven.

The figures show that three out of 10 complete secondary school, while four percent have continued to and finished post secondary education.

Among the many problems that force students out of school is the inability by parents to meet the costs including tuition and other requirements.

Privately-owned schools are largely more expensive that government and mission-founded schools, however, students at Church-owned and government funded Mengo Senior School, say, the cost of other requirements almost outstrip the tuition.

State Minister for Education, John Chrizestom Muyingo, himself an investor in schools, condemns arbitrary school fees hikes.

‘All schools are supposed to request for permission from the ministry, before increasing the fees’, he says. ‘After evaluating the needs presented by the administration, the ministry then will allow or reject the permission’.

Data released by Twaweza under their initiative ‘Sauti za Wananchi’ this month shows that 23 percent of parents of secondary school children cite the cost of requirements as the main hindrance to education, while 14 percent of primary school parents cite the same.

In a Related response, 12 percent of parents cite the distance between the home and the school of the child as a major challenge.

However, the Commissioner for Basic Education at the Ministry of Education and Sports Tony Mukasa Lusambu says some parents bypass cheap government schools for private ones in distant places, claiming they are looking for better standards.

‘But what standards? Most private school are teaching children to pass final exams, but they are not giving them skills’, Lusambu says.

The Federation of Non-state Education Institutions (Fenei) secretary, Mr Patrick Kaboyo, condemned some schools for introducing unnecessary costs like campaign materials for student leadership, which increases the burden on the parent or guardian.

He asked the ministry to issue directives stopping them.

Unfortunately, the Twaweza survey done in September 2018, shows that 4 out of 5 parents do not do anything about the problems in the education sector. 46 percent of Ugandans do not even speak about the problem, which creates a risk of impunity among school management on how they treat parents and guardians.

But even those whose who have complained to authorities hardly get helped. The figures show that 61 percent of those who reported were not helped at all.

Hoima District Education Secretary, James Mugenyi Mulindambura, says education standards have been going down in the district and the government is not going to solve the problem

‘Parents and School Management Committees must work together to revamp academic standards’, he says.
He says the parents have the duty to monitor funds from government and how they are used.

The Twaweza survey found that at least one third of parents ask school management about the finances as used by their school, with rural respondents showing slightly more concern than their urban counterparts.

However, when it comes to the Capitation Grant, only 57 percent of the citizens are aware of its existence but more of them will not know what it is meant for, leaving it at the discretion of the school management and/or administration.

Twaweza argues that is the citizens can know more about the funds that come from the government and the rights they have over their application, this would reduce on the financial burden the parents face.