Education minister defies MPs on closure of illegal schools

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KAMPALA- The minister of Education, Ms Janet Kataha Museveni, has defied Parliament’s order to halt the closure of illegal schools, asserting that the House cannot stop government from performing its function.

Ms Museveni also warned schools to desist from opening as early as 6am and closing as late as 8pm, which is a common practice in private schools. This, she said, puts the lives of children in danger.

Addressing journalists at State House Nakasero yesterday, Ms Museveni said the ministry of Education will continue closing illegal schools until they conform to minimum standards and requirements.

“Parliament cannot stop the government from carrying out its programmes when it is dangerous to our children. We are not going to stop the closure of illegal schools unless we have a good reason to do so,” she said.

MPs raise concerns
Parliament had halted the closure of illegal schools after the deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Jacob Oulanyah, instructed the Parliamentary Committee on Education to examine the closure of schools by the Ministry of Education.

This followed complaints raised by Members of Parliament on the manner in which the ministry is conducting the exercise around the country.

They claimed it was unjustifiable for the ministry to concentrate on closing private schools and leave ill-equipped public schools with poor teacher attendance in operation.

Ms Museveni insisted that the closures are being carried out to ensure that those who establish and operate education institutions comply with the general education policy of the country and maintain national standards.

At the same function, the minister also threatened to dismiss head teachers whose schools will continue to open as early as 6am and close very late. She says schools must open at 8am and close at 5pm.

“It is not right for schools to open outside the time gazetted by the Ministry of Education. The ministry has a calendar, which each school should respect and follow,” she said.

Ms Museveni also expressed concern about transporting children to school on boda bodas.

She particularly cautioned parents about piling their children on one motorcycle while taking them to and from school without an adult accompanying them.

She noted that if parents cannot afford school shuttles, they should walk their children to school or escort them on boda bodas to ensure they are in safe hands.

“Parents should take up their responsibility to ensure that they follow up their children to ensure they are dropped safely to school and back home. Parents might be low income earners but don’t they care about their children? The government cannot do everything for them,” Ms Museveni added.

She also pointed out that the Ministry of Education is able to provide sanitary pads for school-going female students because their budget was reduced by the government.

She, however, affirmed that the President will fulfill his pledge of providing sanitary pads when the funds are available.

Directive: Earlier this year, the State minister for Primary Education, Ms Rosemary Ssenninde, directed district education officials to close schools operating illegally before the start of the first term of 2017.
Opening: Most of the schools around the country opened officially on February 6.
Follow up: The minister promised to make impromptu inspections to ensure all schools meet the required standards.
Standards: The Education Basic Requirements and Minimum Education Standards require every school dormitory to have an emergency exit door, smoke detectors or fire-fighting equipment.
Schools must have incinerators, well separated sanitary facilities for girls, boys and teachers of opposite sex as well as a security guard manning the premises

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