Countrywide- Mr John Baptist Balagadde, a trader in Masaka Town, has four school-going children and one of them is a Senior One entrant.
As the reporting date nears, Mr Balagadde dreads what lies ahead as he has to feed the family and look for school fees. He needs Shs4 million for the first term.
“I could have sold my bananas or coffee to pay fees for my children, but I recorded poor harvests due to dry spells. This business can only fetch me less than Shs500,000 as profit in a month,” he says. One of his children joining Senior One wants to join Kibuli SS and they need at least Shs1.6 million for fees and requirements.
But Mr Bagaladde is just a reflection of the dilemma many parents across the country are faced with. Ms Dorothy Nalule, a mother of three, of which two are in upper primary and one is in Senior Two, says all schools that her children attend have raised fees. She cites Masaka SS which is charging Shs600,000, up from Shs580,000 last year .
“By all means, we will have to send our children back to school even if it needs securing loans so that we pay back later, but also the bank rates are very high,” she says.
“Some schools, especially primary ones ask for juice or milk cartons but when you ask the children, they tell you they are not given such things while at school. You now wonder where such items are taken,” Ms Nalule says. Ms Nalule may be lucky to take her children back to school.
But for Ms Margaret Tebatenda, 40, a resident of Nyendo, a Masaka suburb, her story is different. She says her son, who is supposed to join Senior One, may have to suspend school as she looks for money.
“My husband died in an accident last year and I struggled to have my boy sit exams. The only option left for him is to look for employment in motor garages nearby,” she says.
In Mbale District, a section of parents interviwed, described the set school fees as unrealistic.
Ms Hadijah Namasaba, a mobile money agent on Republic Street, says she has struggled to find a better school with affordable fees for her son who scored Aggregate 13 in Primary Leaving Examinations in vain.
“I went to one of the good schools; the school bursar told me they have increased fees for Senior One students from Shs295,000 to Shs350,000. I gave up. I am now looking for another school,” she says.
Another parent, Mr Adam Werrikhe, says apart from hiked fees, they are also not satisfied with unexplained school requirements.
“These things are designed by schools to fleece us. Our children tell us that many of the items schools request for, are not even used at school, where do they go?” he asks.
A parent who plans to take his child to Mbale Progressive High School will part with Shs550,000 for boarding section and Shs200,000 for day without other school requirements.
Solomon Mafabi, a parent, says he has reduced his budget and also foregone other household needs to be able to take his five children to school this term.