WAKISO. Authorities in Nansana Municipality have passed a by-law compelling all parents with pupils under the Universal Primary Education [UPE] programme to pay Shs20,000 every term to cater for their meals at school.
The move follows a debate that has raged on whether it should be the role of government to provide free meals or the parents.
Government in 2015 asked parents to pack food for their pupils to curb absenteeism and the dropout rate. And by way of policy, it also banned UPE schools from charging extra fees to cater for feeding at school.
The Nansana Municipality Mayor, Ms Regina Bakitte, said effective next school term, which officially opens on February 6, all pupils in public primary schools in the municipality will be required to pay Shs20,000 for lunch.
“It is a waste of time to teach a child on an empty stomach. We shall not go by the government policy of not charging fees in UPE schools yet it is our children who are suffering. We shall ensure that some food is prepared at School,” Ms Bakitte said in an interview yesterday.
The Wakiso District chairperson, Mr Matia Lwanga Bwanika, a similar view and vowed to do ‘whatever’ it takes to ensure that education standards, especially in rural schools in Wakiso District are improved.
“That has been long overdue. We shall present the same for approval as a by-law. You can’t do anything on an empty stomach, that is common knowledge,” Mr Bwanika said by telephone yesterday.
Lack of a clear feeding programme in UPE schools has for long been blamed for the massive dropouts and absenteeism of pupils.
Feeding children at school has remained a tricky issue as both parents and government avoid the responsibility.
Recently, Education Minister and also First Lady Janet Museveni advised parents to buy food flasks for their children to keep their packed food warm.
However, this proposal has been criticised by many local leaders and parents, arguing that it is not applicable since most families in rural areas currently lack what to eat due to a prolonged dry spell, which scotched their plantations.
But Mr Gerald Lumbuye, the Mayor Makindye/Ssabagabo, said the proposal to ask parents to pay a fee to prepare meals for their children is not a new one as some schools in the district are already implementing it.
“I am one of those who support the idea of parents paying for meals for their children. At St Andrews Primary School -Ndejje where I am a member of school management committee, parents already pay some fee to buy food for their children, but we shall roll it out in all schools,” Mr Lumbuye said.
But Kiira Municipality Mayor, Mr Julius Richard Mutebi, said while it is a good idea to provide meals at school, he will wait for the central government to bless the proposal.
Mr Henry Lwanga Ssempijja, the Wakiso District education officer, said contributing some money by parents to buy food for pupils does not ‘break any law.’
In 2015, President Museveni, who was opposed to the idea of parents paying for any service under UPE scheme, directed local leaders to reach a consensus on how much money parents should pay to cater for meals for their school going children under the free education programme.
Section 5(2) of Education Act 2008 empowers local governments to make and enforce by-laws obliging parents to feed their school going children.
“That has been long overdue. We shall present the same for approval as a by-law. You can’t do anything on an empty stomach, that is common knowledge,”
Matia Lwanga Bwanika, Wakiso District chairperson
“I wanted total free education for our primary school children, but the local leaders insisted that you contribute some little money for the children welfare. This issue can only be resolved through village conferences because we still have voices against this extra fees. It’s now clear that the problem is not on our side, but you and the leaders,”
President Museveni said in 2015