We have often been told that a school is not just buildings or a solitary entity. In Africa, the management of the school is mostly associated with the use of the three cooking stones which must be aligned so that all is well while cooking. In education thence, for the learners to have satisfaction, the teachers, school administrators, the ministry of education and the general public must come to agreement on how the learning process should be carried out. This has been resultantly leading to reforms of the education process from time to time. In this respect, the ministry of education and sports in October 2017 issued guideless on how schools should charge the learners. However, with the ministry trying to have aligned charges for all schools, it is debatable on how feasible this will be. Will the school administrators and parents abide by this? Coming up with these guidelines, the ministry of education and sports noted with concern the unrealistic and prohibitive school fees denying access to basic and secondary education to a number of learners; hence compromising government objective of providing affordable education for all and increasing equitable access to primary and post primary education.
The ministry went as far to give these guidelines noting that in most cases, the fees have been raised arbitrarily and without recourse to established official procedure requiring schools intending to raise school fees to seek and obtain official permission from the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education and Sports. Failure to abide by the guidelines, stern disciplinary action shall be taken against any Head of school operating contrary to the guidelines. Any private /government funded school that fails to observe these guidelines shall have its licence/registration certificate withdrawn. Parents and the general public are further advised to report any school contravening these guidelines.
Therefore, ALL head teachers, School Management Committees of primary schools and Board of Governors of secondary schools must strictly observe the following guidelines that was signed by the permanent secretary Ministry of Education and Sports, Alex Kakooza. The guideline requires that no school, private or Government funded should increase school fees in the year 2018 for whatever reason without written authorization from the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education and Sports and/ or Chief Administrative Officer/Town clears as the case may be. Secondly, other cash and non-cash requirements outside the approved school fees are strictly prohibited. All non-cash items must therefore be catered for in the school budget. Schools implementing Universal Primary Education (UPE), Universal Secondary Education (USE) and Universal Post “O” Level Education and Training (UPOLET) shall strictly adhere to the policy implementation guidelines. Where parents decide and agree to contribute towards an emergency in the school and permission is sought and granted by the Permanent Secretary, no learner shall be excluded from school on account of parent’s failure to pay the agreed amount in accordance with Section 9(3) of the Education Act 2008. And, as soon as the emergency is solved, the school shall stop charging the emergency fund. Where a School Board/School Management Committee has to employ additional teachers to those on payrolls, permission shall be sought from the Permanent Secretary in case of a Secondary School and Chief Administrative Officer/Town Clerk in case of Primary Schools, to use part of the Capitation grant towards the payment of the additional teachers.
In line with the above, head teachers are warned against employing additional teachers before all the teachers on payroll have been assigned the minimum required teaching load. All teachers without a minimum teaching load should be promptly reported to the Ministry of Education and Sports in case of Secondary schools or respective Local Governments in case of primary schools for appropriate redeployment. All schools must respect staff establishment ceilings for both teaching and non-teaching staff as provided by Ministry of Public Service.
Private schools must adhere to the approved staff employment guidelines. They should formally recruit, contract and effectively manage and develop staff on reasonable employment terms.
All Government and Government aided Schools should desist from taking commercial loans. Any school applying for a loan must seek authorisation from the Minister of Finance Planning and Economic Development through the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education and Sports as provided for in the Public Finance Management Act 2015. Day schools must desist from changing their status to Boarding until such a time when the change in status is approved by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education and Sports. Day schools desirous to operate Boarding Sections/Hostels should seek authorization from the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Education and Sports. All un authorised hostels/ dormitories MUST not open starting 2018.
All school budgets must be discussed and endorsed by the full Board/School Management Committees and submitted to the respective Chief Administrative Officers/Town Clerks. For Secondary Schools, the Chief Administrative Officers shall submit the endorsed school budgets to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education and Sports by 31st December of each year for final approval. For proper implementation of these guidelines, each school must have a functional Board of Governors/School Management Committee. Here, NO school, Private or Government, should operate without an approved/ functional Board of Governors or School Management Committee.
Therefore, as first term opens, ALL must abide by the guidelines. However, how applicable are the guidelines for the schools and parents. According to one head teacher in a Government school who preferred anonymity, the guidelines are handy as some schools charge exorbitantly. To him, much as the guidelines are tick, specifics should have been given by the ministry regarding what non-cash requirements should not be brought to school for use. He observes that necessities like brooms and toilet papers are things the school can not do without unlike charging cement by some schools. Regarding employing additional teachers before all the teachers on payroll have been assigned the minimum required teaching load, he in agreement that sometimes teachers are employed without the minimum load observed that schools do this in case of shortage of teachers. This he observed happens in mostly science subjects where the teachers are few. Much as he seconds to the practice, he warns that some of the teachers with less load are not on ground as they keep moving and teaching in about four schools. This he discourages as it in the end leads to absenteeism.
Another teacher observed that much as the learners will not bring requirements, the school fees has been increased to cater for the requirements. Though she says this helps, she observes that it comes with challenges. Asked about how other schools could cope up with the guidelines, she suggests getting authorisation from the ministry. One parent seconded the guidelines observing that schools should not increase school fess arbitrarily. This she observed disorganises parents as the cost of living is high with almost everything increasing. Concerning payment of cash and non-cash requirements, she observed that the requirements should only be brought in first and third term. In the district and up-country schools, the heads of schools observed ignorance of the guidelines. Given that the parents of these schools bring non-cash items like beans, maize and firewood among other things, the head of school talked to observed difficulty of converting these in monetary terms as the parents will not be able to afford. She explains that parents find it easy to bring the food stuffs to help in running of the schools as the fees is reduced.
With the issuing of the guidelines on school charges then, they are positives and challenges that schools will face. However, now that 2018 is here, schools will have to find ways of abiding by the guidelines to avoid closure and operating without a license. Though schools in towns may be aware of the guidelines, it is evident that up-country schools have not been briefed. To have a cohesive observation of the guidelines in the country then, enough sensitization and communication needs to be done. Parents, school administrators and the general public need to be engaged and have their ears on ground to see the success of operation of these guidelines.
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