By Katagira Tom
The Education is the act or process of imparting knowledge, skills and values. It may also be understood in the light of developing the powers of reasoning and judgment for future life. Farooq  suggests that Education is a process in which and by which the knowledge, characters and behaviors of human beings are shaped and molded. In the Universal Declaration of Human rights  it is stated that everyone has a right to education and that education shall be free and compulsory at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. It is also stated that technical and professional education shall be equally and meritoriously accessible to all. This was further amplified by the millennium development goal number two (2), which was to achieve the Universal Primary Education for all by 2015. The ultimate goal was to provide Equitable, Accessible and Quality education for all. Although education is for the common good and its cost should be borne by the government for the benefit of society, the trend all over the world is that it has been increasingly commercialized in recent times.
In Uganda, the liberalization of education saw the rise of mushrooming private schools. Majority of education institutions at all levels are privately owned and operated with a profit-driven motive. It is also true that some of the government-aided schools are run motivated by the same spirit because the government contribution to their budgets is quite diminutive. Due to commercialization of education, many factors have come into play and schools have taken it upon themselves to charge the school fees they see fit as elaborated below: In government-aided schools, 70% of the budget is privately funded by the parents. This has left schools with no option but to transfer the burden of increasing demand for scholastic materials and staff motivation to the parents in terms of hiked school fees. Private schools are also spending colossal amounts of valued money on non-priorities so as to attract students.
They invest large chunks of money in building, for example, expensive recreational facilities like swimming pools and lavish buildings. This, pitifully, is done at the expense of parents’ paltry incomes. The effect of the ever-increasing cost of education and its concomitant burden on parents is that the less privileged are either sacrificed at that altar or are forced to resign themselves from the whole school system. For instance, a boy in Karamoja may score aggregate four (4) in PLE and is admitted at St. Mary’s College, Kisubi for Secondary Education. This boy will have nothing to do but to turn down the offer because the parents cannot afford the UGX: 1.5 million school fees. Such a student would seek solace from a not-so-prominent schools where his chances of passing or getting quality education are sadly minimized.
The drive to attract a paying class of students has brought with it the reality of compromising common values like discipline of students. This arises from the “doctrine” of ‘The customer is the King’. Many school rules and regulations have been ignored and discipline of many schools left to the dogs. The result of this is that we have produced a bunch of citizens who are just learned but not educated. Today, a teacher’s attitude towards the education profession has completely revolutionized. This is mainly because many look at it as manna from heaven.
Teachers have lost the spirit of service and are always involved in demands for higher wages other than teaching the citizens of this nation. This demand for high wages stems from the hiked school fees by the schools that employ them. The hiking of school fees by schools has further suffocated the sacredness of the education system by some schools who conceal pose under the guise of offering bursaries to the bright students but letting the under privileged students suffering. Recent research has revealed that the bursaries are non-existent and in most cases students in those schools are subjected to sub-standard education. Majority of these schools, which claim to offer bursaries, are centers for incompetent youngsters. The poor have also been victimized by mafias who hide under the umbrella of NGOs, which claim to be offering bursaries to students. These solicit the little incomes from their parents promising to get them bursaries. These unfortunate souls have been swept clean and have cried foul on media houses like Bukedde Television. This is because such parents, due to their havelessness, find it too hard to maintain themselves in the government-aided schools.
Many parents have resorted to taking their children to the so-called ‘’cheap’’ Primary and Secondary schools available. As a result, pressure has been exerted on the few available resources and as such provision of poor quality education to the public becomes an inevitable reality. As a recommendation, the government should come out and seriously play its regulatory role in priority sectors like education and health if it is to offer quality service to her citizens.
We cannot change the country unless we have a competent and patriotic human resource that is ready to sustainably utilize the available national resource for development!
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