Parents decry tuition fees as Uganda closes all schools over COVID-19

Uniformed kids on their way home from school
Uniformed kids on their way home from school

Kampala, Uganda | URN | With the second school closure effected, parents are currently flocking to the country’s different schools and educational institutions to collect their children.

This comes hours after a presidential directive ordering the closure of all schools for 42 days as one of the measures in face of the COVID-19 second wave. The directive came at a time when schools were still operating in a staggered manner, with S1, S2, P4, and P5 found at school.

In the same line, schools were expecting to receive lower primary learners (P1, P2, P3) and semi candidates coming for a special term before being promoted to their next classes. There was another group of learners in schools that were used as UNEB marking centers who had barely spent two weeks at school.

As early as 7:00 a.m. parents had started arriving at different schools. However, they were all worried about the abrupt closure of schools by the government with the majority expressing concerns over school fees that they have just paid.

George William Masolo, a parent of three school-going children was found at the Emmanuel College Kazo school gate looking frustrated over the decision to close schools. Masolo says he had just paid school fees for his children one in senior three and two others in P.6.

Hamis Walugembe, another parent found at Mbogo High school, was also questioning what will happen to the hard-earned money that they had just paid to the schools. Walugembe explains that he has children in two different schools and he was asked to pay to zero balance.

Hajat Mariam Hamza, another parent at Mbogo high coming from Jinja, laments about the situation, saying that it’s not good although they have to abide by the presidential directive.

Zubaidah Nakiranda, a parent, says though the closure of schools is intended to protect their children, it has left them financially constrained. Nakiranda is concerned that her daughter only studied for two weeks and she had paid for her full school fees.

Lydia Namusoke was found at Namugongo Secondary School Naalya where she had gone to collect her sister. Namusoke notes that the school administrators had asked all students who were returning for a special term to report with full payment of schools. Two days after, schools have been closed and the fate of their money is currently unknown.

“Learners had not even started lessons in this special term since they reported a few days ago. We don’t know what will happen to the school fees we had paid we are waiting for an official communication from the administration,” Namusoke who is looking after her little sister lamented.

Although many parents were wondering whether school operators would give them a refund, in many schools visited by our reporters, headteachers had hidden from parents leaving their deputies or teachers on duty to see off the learners.

But some bold headteachers like Lydia Naluze of Castle Junior School, told parents point-blank that they should expect no refund. She however noted that when schools reopen, the paid fees will put into consideration considered.

Read Also: Uganda closes schools, bans inter-district travel amid second wave COVID-19 spike

Before the presidential Sunday 6, June 2021 evening address, the Ministry of Education and Sports had issued a circular halting schools from receiving or sending learners at home. Unfortunately, there are some parents and schools that refused to follow the circular.

Besides the school fees issue, many parents and teachers are concerned about the academics of the learners. Annet Namutebi, parent, notes that as students were coming from a long unprecedented holiday, they thought that they could use this period to recover the lost content but it has not been achieved.

Namutebi says the government could have used as measures than closing schools. To her, the school closure is going to have a far-reaching effect on the children’s learning outcomes. She further expressed concerns that with the prolonged period, some students might not return to school forever.

She also express concerns over the equitability of forms of learning during the lockdown which she says favours a section of learners over others.

Just like the first lockdown, schools have started looking for means to ensure continuity in learning with urban schools already opting for online teaching and other available methods.

For instance, Paul Kiguba, Headteacher Emmanuel College Kazo, shares that the school is going to reactivate Whatsapp reading groups in addition to the reading materials that were recently distributed by government.