President Yoweri Museveni has called for a review of government's free education programme in both primary and secondary schools.
Museveni said he is still confused on which side to take as some people are suggesting that parents can afford contributing something towards the education of their children. Others however claim that parents are too poor to afford paying schools fees for their children.
He tasked the National Youth Council to enquire from village council leaders on whether Universal Primary Education (UPE) and Universal Secondary Education (USE) should be reviewed to allow monitory contributions from parents.
Museveni disclosed this while presiding over the International Youth Day celebrations at Kampiringisa Rehabilitation Centre playgrounds in Mpigi district yesterday under the theme "Safe Spaces for Youths".
Museveni explained that government spends huge sums on UPE and USE yet many government schools charge parents, which calls for a policy review.
"When I try to ask some people they ask parents are capable of paying but just pretend. So the question then is, are parents capable of paying or are just pretending. We need an answer of all the villages. They should tell us because if they are too lazy to pay that means they can afford but are pretending. But if they can’t afford and we force them that means children will not go to school. So I need advice from you because you’re the people in the villages. You’re the one to tell me that this is the way to go. I challenged you the youth." he said.
Many schools, especially those in urban areas resolved to levy an optional Shs 10,000 for lunch and Shs 10,400 for utility bills like water and electricity.
Museveni says he has failed to understand how the matter should be handled and therefore called from resolutions from village council leaders whom he believes are much aware of the status of people in their villages.
"I told you to go back to the villages and ask the LC1s whether we should allow school charges to come back or we should stop them…Can the families afford to pay the school charges or can they not afford? Because now am being tossed around. We spend so much money on UPE, so much money on USE yet government schools are charging and you find children are out of school. I need a resolution from LC1s to tell me what to do." said Museveni.
He says government will take a decision after hearing from the local leaders. Government rolled out UPE in 1997 and abolished all kinds of fees. Primary school enrolment increased from 3.1 million pupils in 1996 to 7.6 million in 2003 following the introduction of UPE.
Government introduced Universal Secondary Education ten years later to enable eligible primary school graduates enrol in secondary and vocational training institutions.
While government promised to pay the fees, parents were expected to provide scholastic materials and midday meals for the learners. However many parents especially in rural areas do not to provide meals to their children, saying they are too poor.
Recent reviews by civil society organisations have found UPE and USE schools struggling to meet costs of operation as government funds are most of the times delayed, swindled or a times not released altogether.
The quality of education in the UPE and USE has also come under scrutiny after government ordered for automatic promotion of all students.