Although government banned schools implementing Universal Primary Education (UPE) from charging extra fees from pupils, a big number of them in Lyantonde District are violating this policy, Daily Monitor has established.
The illegal charges, according to Daily Monitor’s snap survey in seven sub-counties in the district, have forced many parents to withdraw their children from the government schools.Daily Monitor has established that in some primary schools, day scholars pay Shs30,000 while their colleagues in the boarding section pay Shs100,000 in extra fees.
Ms Jolly Nimusiima, a single mother and resident of Kanaala village in Mpumudde Sub-county, says she was forced to withdraw her two children from a UPE school after she failed to raise Shs60, 000 for school fees.
“I had no option but to tell my sons to stay home and assist me in the garden because I cannot raise that money,” Ms Nimusiima narrated, as her two boys played football in the small compound during school time. She wondered why public schools charge school fees yet they are implementing government’s free education scheme.
“I hear that Buyanga Town School, which is privately owned, charges Shs20,000, yet government-aided Mpumudde Primary School charges Shs30,000. Where is the free education they talk about?” Ms Nimusiima asked.
Some of the parents who spoke to Daily Monitor on condition of anonymity said they have been forced to marry off their daughters at a tender age to reduce the burden on them. Mr Johnson Nuwasasiira, a councillor representing Mpumudde Sub-county, attributed the problem to head teachers who connive with chairpersons of Parent’s Teacher’s Association (PTA) and demand money from poor parents.
The Lyantonde District Education Officer, Mr Medard Byarugaba, said: “First of all , the arrangement where Primary Seven candidates are forced to reside at school is illegal and no parent should be asked to pay money in all our UPE schools. Those charging parents are doing it illegally and will be arrested.”
Government introduced free primary education in 1997 to reduce the cost burden of basic primary education on poor parents. Although the country boasts of approximately 8.5 million pupils in primary school compared to 2.3 million before the introduction of UPE, the scheme has been laden by unchecked graft which has crippled the delivery of quality education.
More than Shs100b is spent annually on UPE capitation grants and each beneficiary is allocated Shs7000 annually. Government also pays another Shs300,000 for each school to meet its operational costs per term.
Some of parents who spoke to Daily Monitor said they have been forced to marry off their daughters at a tender age to reduce the burden on them. Mr Johnson Nuwasasiira, a councillor, attributed the problem to head teachers who connive with chairpersons of PTA.