Some schools countrywide have increased fees despite pleas from the government to maintain last term’s fees structures.
The schools, mostly private, say the increment will cater for the astronomical rise in food prices and other essential commodities.
A mini-survey conducted at schools, both primary and secondary, open for third term, clearly indicated that some schools have increased fees structures between Shs30,000 to as much as Shs100,000, while others have tactfully concealed the increment in the requirements’ category.
Muhabura Shine Secondary School in Kisoro District has, for instance, increased fees by an additional Shs40,000. The school took a decision to increase fees from last term’s Shs330,000 to Shs370,000 to cater for foodstuffs, whose prices have consistently skyrocketed.
St Peters Primary School Nsambya in Kampala has increased its fees by Shs50,000 from last term’s Shs550,000 to now Shs600,000.
According to a staff member, who preferred anonymity to speak freely, the increment will cater for the current economic crisis in the country.
St Mary’s College Kisubi, and Seeta High Secondary School, however, maintained their old fees structure, with arguments that parents too were hit by the economic crisis. For example, Senior One students still pay about Shs2.4 million in third term at St Mary’s College Kisubi.
The cost of living has skyrocketed in the country since the start of the year, pushing various baskets of groceries beyond the affordability of thousands of households, with the lower income earners most affected.
The prices of essential goods such as food and energy rose sharply, with the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (Ubos) putting the consumer price index (CPI) measure of inflation at 6.8 percent.
In urban neighbourhoods and rural communities, millions of citizens continue to choke on deficit of household essential, a situation made worse by the doubling in the price of a kilogramme of maize flour and beans – a dominant meal combination at schools and for families.
A kilogramme of maize flour rose by 48.3 percent from Shs1,843 last year to now Shs3,500.
For St Paul’s Bukinda Secondary School in Rukiga District, Mr John Bosco Ruhanga Asiimwe, however, said after analysing the state of affairs, they decided to keep the fees structure at Shs560,000 by suspending construction activities.
Ms Angella Nabukenya, the headmistress of St Louis Girls Secondary School in Kanungu District, said they decided to have a slight fees adjustment from Shs296,000 to Shs346,000, because of a planned fundraising ceremony towards smooth running of the school’s programmes.
“Although we increased the school fees, we have observed that it will not be enough to facilitate the proper running of the school activities and it’s the reason we are planning to hold a fundraising ceremony,” she added.
The increment comes amid hard financial times, as families struggle to stay afloat following the after effects of the Covid-19 induced lockdown, which left several breadwinners jobless. Other companies had to downsize or cut salaries of their employees, which haven’t been reinstated to date.
In Teso Sub-region, a section of government-aided and private schools that were visited have maintained their fees structures and requirements.
The head teacher of Ngora High School in Ngora District, Mr Eliphaz Opolot, said they have maintained their fees structure at Shs636,000 for both O-Level and A-Level students.
Teso College Aloet in Soroti District maintained their old rates of Shs740,000 for O-Level students and Shs785,000 for those in A-Level.
Both Mr Opolot, and Teso College Aloet head teacher Julius Opaso said their old fees structures and requirement lists will be maintained unless the Ministry of Education and Sports comes up with a new circular.
Mr Richard Omusei, the director of Halcyon High School in Soroti, said their rates are still standing at Shs530,000 for O-Level and Shs565,000 for A-Level students.
He said they could not ask for more money from the parents because they had mitigated the food crisis by stocking enough food.
“We anticipated the problem earlier and we stocked enough food,” Mr Omusei said.
Private school owners in January revealed plans to increase fees for the third term to cater for the high cost of food and other essential commodities.
There are about 18,000 private schools in Uganda, according to the National Private Education Institutions Association (NPEIA) statistics.
Last year, the Education ministry issued a circular barring private schools from hiking fees.
The communication that was embedded under the ‘Express Permission’ sought to bar private institutions from increasing school fees or any other charges without permission from the Education ministry.
Despite the public outcry and the ministry’s directive, some private schools and government-aided schools have already increased their charges before being cleared.
In Koboko District, Kochi Secondary School in Midia Sub-county has increased the school fees by Shs58,000. This means each student in the boarding section will pay Shs344,000, up from last term’s Shs286,000, while each day scholar will pay Shs283,000 from Shs225,000.
The school head teacher, Mr Zuberi Dada, said that the increment was inevitable.
“We accumulated debts of more than Shs8 million from our suppliers in second term because the income we raised could not match the skyrocketing food prices on the market,” he said.
The school has 789 students in boarding and 57 in the day section, making a total of 846 learners.
In Mbale, the head teacher of Bugisu High School, Mr Sam Mabonga, said they have slightly hiked fees from Shs200,000 to Shs250,000 for day section and from Shs400,000 to Shs600,000 for boarding section.
“The management proposed a slight increment in our fees with effect from third term,” Mr Mabonga said.
According to the circular letter dated July 27, this was done in order to match the increasing school expenditures.
At Crown High in Kamwenge District (private), Mr Aloysius Katureebe, a teacher, said the school increased the fees by an additional Shs50,000 to meet expenses.
Mr Katureebe said last term, the students were paying Shs250,000, which has been increased to Shs300,000, including 40kgs of maize and 16kgs of beans.
In central Uganda, although a number of schools have reportedly increased the school fees for the third term both at primary and secondary levels citing the general hike in commodity prices, many of the school administrators and parents that this publication approached were reserved and not ready to discuss the fees increment.
Mr Axam Muduse of Mpigi Parents School, explained that the hike in prices of most of the essential commodities used by the children is the major reason most schools negotiated for a small figure as top up from the school fees.
At Mpigi Mixed Secondary School, the school fees was raised by Shs50,000. The students will now pay Shs800,000, up from the Shs750,000.
Ms Betty Kabalega, the head teacher of St Cecilia Boarding Primary School Buyamba in Rakai District, explained that the school administration consulted the parents and had a consensus to have the fees increased for third term.
“The students will pay an additional Shs50,000. For term two, the school charged Shs620,000 but the charges for term three will be Shs670,000,” she said.
At Luweero High School in Luweero District, the students will pay Shs150,000 up from last term’s Shs120,000.
At Centenary High School Nyendo in Masaka City, the School fees has been increased by Sh120,000. The students will pay Shs570, 000 for the third term, up from the Shs450,000 paid last term
The Chairperson of the National Private Educational Institutions Association, Mr Hasadu Kirabira, said fees increment is inevitable given the prevailing high cost of living.
Mr Kirabira, however, warned that the increment must be carefully done after involving parents and board of governors so that they can appreciate the motive for the increment.
Why other schools did not increase fees
The head teacher of Boston High School Entebbe, Mr Gasta Baguma, said they have not hiked the school fees due to the current economic state of parents.
“Most parents did not clear last term’s school fees because they are struggling economically,” she said.
The head teacher of Bishop Cyprian Kihangire Secondary School, Luzira, Kampala, Mr Victor Nam Okello, said the school maintained the old fees structure due the hard economic times the parents are equally experiencing.
“How can you increase fees when parents are struggling to pay in instalments? We have maintained the old fees structure. We shall cut on expenses but the situation is really tough. Teachers are also demanding for a pay rise. The situation is really tough,” Mr Okello said.
Mr Okello said his students currently pay Shs1,430,000 per term.
The cost of living has skyrocketed in the country since the start of the year, pushing various baskets of groceries beyond the affordability of thousands of households, with the lower income earners most affected. The prices of essential goods such as food and energy rose sharply, with the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (Ubos) putting the consumer price index (CPI) measure of inflation at 6.8 percent.