Proprietors of private schools have blamed government bureaucracy and incompetence on their failure to obtain operational licenses on time.
At least 1,000 unlicensed schools face closure but officials from the Federation of Non-State Education Institutions (Fenei) say this due to the challenging and tedious licensing process.
This is exacerbated by the inadequate capacity of the Education ministry to swiftly clear schools that submit their documents for operational licenses. Patrick Kaboyo, the Fenei national secretary, says several schools have submitted all necessary documents for licenses but are yet to get any feedback from the ministry.
“We have many of our members whose files are still stuck at the ministry of education and sports, some of them for over a year,” noted Kaboyo at a press conference held today at the Sea Scallop restaurant in Kampala.
In a recent meeting with Fenei, Alex Kakooza, the permanent secretary at the ministry of Education confirmed that the ministry was faced with a backlog especially in the licensing and clearing for primary schools’ licenses. He promised that all schools that had submitted documents for licensing shall be assisted. Kakooza explained that licensing is a process that cannot be completed in a day or week.
“It is not true that schools that submitted their files have not been worked on. They either gave those provisional licenses as they study their files or will not be closed. [But] for schools that have not taken any step in licensing their schools, we shall close them as soon as they open,” Kakooza said.
Early last year, the education ministry’s directorate of education standards (DES) closed at least 1,300 illegal education institutions. The schools lacked qualified teaches, had no structures, no licenses and pit latrines, among other minimum requirements set by the ministry.
Some illegal schools closed for short while but later opened for second term in 2017. This prompted the ministry to issue fresh circulars to illegal schools in which Kakooza urged district education officers to implement their closure.
At the start of the exercise, parliament had blocked the ministry’s directive pending an independent investigation from members on the parliamentary education committee. However, parliament later okayed the closures saying the situation was more than appalling in the schools cited by the ministry as illegal.
DES also introduced an electronic form to guide parents on checking for the registration statuses of their schools. To check for a license, you go to messages and type SCV, leave a space, name of school, and send to 8700. The messages are free of charge. Even with the wrong spelling of a school, you can get schools that follow or share similar names of the selected school.
According to Fenei, over 300 member schools have not submitted their documents and are at a great risk of closure. Meanwhile, Zaujja Ndifuna Matovu, the vice chairperson of Fenei, blamed this delay on the huge list of requirements for acquisition of an operational license, thereby hampering them from submitting their documents since they do not yet have all the requirements in place.
He urged government to consider phasing out the complex licensing process so that schools that meet certain crucial minimum requirements can be licensed in the interim as they work on attaining the rest of the requirements.
“It is absolutely very good to have standards in our education system but there is need for flexibility from the government,” said Matovu, who also urged school owners to endeavor and get their schools licensed.
Although this move, if undertaken by the ministry, will leave several learners and parents stranded, Dr Stephen Waako, the Fenei vice chairman for Eastern region, noted that there are schools that have opened without the necessary requirements and they will help them get in order or risk closure.