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Crisis in education is not fees but performance

Fees hike in schools has remained topical for the last three weeks.

A section of Ugandans is angry that money demanded by the elite government-aided schools reflects a general decline in regulation. Why, for example, should a school such as Gombe, Nabbingo, Namagunga, Namilyango, Budo or Kisubi charge a senior one child nearly Shs 2 million, yet their teachers are paid by government?

Some commentators argue that these charges have turned education into a commodity affordable only by the rich. At parliament, where I work, MPs are drafting a motion that will require government to set school fees.

MPs are incensed that schools are asking parents to pay for things such as development, dormitory, PTA, board of governors, reams of paper, textbooks, library, etc.

Let me, therefore, state from the beginning that while I sympathize with these sentiments, I don’t subscribe to them. The elite, including members of parliament, have narrowed the country to their social groups. The fees these MPs and journalists are complaining about affect just a fraction of parents.

The biggest section of our population is affected by the quality of education their children are getting and MPs, the media and all elite are responsible for this.

Let us begin with S4 exams. Some 41,632 students, according to the results released recently, failed the exams completely. This number represents 13% of the 323,276 candidates who sat for S4 exams last year.

Nearly half of the candidates (142,479) passed in division four. These fellows cannot be admitted to King’s College Budo, Kibuli, Namagunga or Nabisunsa even if they had the money. Another 20% (63,072) passed in division three. Those who failed plus those who passed in division three and four make up 78% of the total candidates.

For me, this is the crisis that the country must discuss, and not fees being charged in elite schools. And the situation is not different in primary schools. On average, 90,000 pupils fail PLE exams every year. This year, the exact number was 81,210, representing 13% again.

Those who passed in division one in PLE are just 10%. These are the ones competing for the top schools in the country. These 10% are competing for just about five per cent of the schools, which explains the stampede when results are released.

I don’t want to be part of those who are  looking for a solution for only 10% of the country’s pupils and students and forget the 90%. This year, districts such as Buyende, Luuka, Mayuge, Kaliro and Kween registered almost no first grades.

Most of the pupils who go to schools in these and other districts failed PLE. We will be selfish to discuss fees at King’s College Budo and not absence of any meaningful school in Luuka and Kaliro.

That is partly why this country has some of the highest numbers of school dropouts. Look at primary one, official figures speak of nearly two million pupils enrolled. Seven years later, only 640,000 report for PLE exams. It means as many as 1.4 million pupils have dropped out!

By S4, the number has reduced to 300,000. This means 1.7 million children are already out of school by the time of O-Level exams. The solution cannot be regulation of school fees at Budo or Nabbingo, but establishing more quality schools in Buyende, Luuka, Kaliro and Mayuge.

The policy of this government is that there must be a public secondary school in each of the 2,000 sub-counties. Of course more sub-counties, and not schools, are being created. The policy again is that there must be a public primary school in each of the 9,000 parishes in the country.

I think this is what parliament should concern itself with. Focus cannot be the elite schools, but facilities where children of the underprivileged go. At Kampala Parents where my children used to go, we were paying Shs 1.5 million per term; and this is a day school, but I never complained. Such schools are established for profit, and not provision of a social service.

There are people who don’t know that education is a commodity. As a country, we run the risk of collapsing the little that remains. It never occurred to me that schools such as Nakasero, Buganda Road, Bat Valley, etc, will one day be a shadow of their former selves, thanks to the universal primary education.

This UPE mentality shouldn’t be exported to top secondary schools. Real incentives should be made available to develop more quality secondary schools.

That is what the past leaders used to do. Bidandi Ssali studied at Nyakasura, and Aronda Nyakairima at Kitgum High School. Today, we all descend on Budo. There were quality schools almost in every district. Many years of neglect led to the collapse of many of them. Some were later buried by the populist universal secondary education.  

I think you are aware that children of some of these people that now want to regulate fees in top schools get their education in Kenya and elsewhere. Maybe they want to kill the little that remains so we are buried for good!


The author is Kira Municipality MP.


+3 #1 Ensi eno! 2017-02-15 08:15
Hon. I had sat PLE in 1990 at Bat Valley Primary School and as you said, this school, Buganda Road, Nakasero, Kitante, Shimoni, and many upcountry primary schools were the cream of the day and were very affordable.

My father was a civil servant and many friends had parents who were policemen, market vendors etc and they could all afford the fees.

It is very few Ugandans who know that our current misleaders have a deadly motive for this country, they want to destroy Uganda and their actions speak volumes.
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+1 #2 Herbert Mugumya 2017-02-15 12:26
This is my best article of the year!

Thanks Hon Semujju for speaking to the socially excluded and marginalized population of Uganda.

78% of our children missing out of quality education and this does not raise Parliament to debate is worrying.

The drop out rates at each level are worrying, those transiting from one level to another are getting less and less! Where are Mama Janet M7 priorities and focus in the education sector?
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0 #3 Joseph Asiiwa 2017-02-15 16:47
Bwana ssemuju yr right, i attended city primary in 1993, went to jinja college, currently am in Southafica and my daughter wants to visit my former schools, mainly the primary school. i hear now its called ariya .

My worry is what is left in Uganda, for us to be proud of. My daughter only wants to come to Uganda to see Frozen, because i told her that her favorite character from disney is in Uganda.

whenever she watches you tube to see what happens in Uganda, she only sees policemen beating up civilians.
The country needs rebooting for the sake of our children.
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+1 #4 braco 2017-02-16 08:56
Hon, the fact is some of the things
are done intentionally.

Now do you expect a poorly paid police officer,
Prison warders,primary teachers and Peasants to take their children to Those expensive schools? We shall Continue being slaves for others.
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0 #5 Kabinda 2017-02-16 19:59
The author is spot on.What Uganda needs is a movement toward national consciousness.

These so called liberators of 86 had only one agenda: to use their anger toward Obote as a scapegoat to grab power for self-aggrandizement.

There absolutely no excuse that the education system they found in a relatively good shape is now in such spectacular shambles.It speaks volumes about the 30 plus years of misrule than it does anything else.
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0 #6 Harriet Kyasimire 2017-02-16 23:50
i attended shimoni demonstration school before it was sold to investors..it seems like everyone is in for a quick buck even disregarding school property which is our childrens future and education.

we would expect the person right at the top of the ministry of education to start firm and protect its institutions but they in it for themselves no ones give a toss about anything in Uganda nowadays.
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0 #7 Ugthinker 2017-02-17 03:19
Ugandans are starved of basic needs and deserve it. Many of those chastising Dr Besigye either studied in public schools or are educating their children in them.

One wonders why they can't stand to be counted behind the voice of reason! The example of Bidandi Ssali and Aronda Nyakairima above, is what 'One Uganda, one people' is all about.

All Ugandans, with or without access to state resources, stand to benefit from a functional nation, just as was the case before the occupiers took command. UNITE and send them packing ONLY then will you ever be proud Ugandans again.
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