By Cecilia Okoth
Despite the free education rendered to children by Government under the Primary Leaving Education (PLE) scheme, schools still charge parents for examination fees, a requirement that has to be fulfilled before a child sits for examinations, the New Vision has learnt.
During a children’s consultation meeting held in Kampala, children from various regions of the country aired out issues affecting them in school with examination fees charges topping the list.
The meeting was organized by the National Council for Children, Plan Uganda, Children International Uganda and SOS Children’s villages Uganda, Save the children and the United Nations Children Fund ahead of the African child day celebrations slated for 16th June.
This year’s theme is, “A child friendly quality free and compulsory education for all children in Uganda.
During the meeting, many children revealed that some of their colleagues are chased or barred from doing their final examinations.
“Many pupils who register for PLE drop out of school because they cannot afford the examination fees and other requirements the school asks for like passport size photographs,” said Grace Atim, a pupil of Ongako Primary school.
Nationally in 2010, the drop out rate was at four percent and in 2011 the drop out was 3.4 percent.
Jessica Alupo, the education minister recently approved an increment in examination (registration) fees on the request of the Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB).
Alupo revealed the new fees as 17,500 for PLE; 90,000 for UCE and 100,000 for UACE. This is an increment from the previous UNEB examination fees, approved by the education ministry in 2009.
The previous fees stood at sh14,000 for PLE; sh80,000 for UCE and sh80,500 for UACE.
Still in the Northern region, the children said the case of child neglect is rampant and is steamed from alcoholism and polygamy among fathers.
“The police should arrest all parents who do not take their children to school,” the children from the northern region unanimously said in the statement.
In the West Nile region, the children said their biggest challenge that hinders them from child friendly education is the unfriendly home environment.
Desire Ushindi a pupil of Niva Primary School Arua who was speaking on behalf of the children from West Nile noted that although UPE is free, some pupils do not sit for examination as a result of lack of support from their parents and guardians.
“One pupil revealed during our discussions that whenever he asks for money for examination fees, his father shows him River Nile and says money is there,” Ushindi said adding that such responses by parents are usually followed with corporal punishments.
In the Busoga region, children said some of their colleagues do not go to school due to forced early marriages, cultural and religious affiliations that stop them from attending school.
“The Government should sensitize parents through the media on the benefits of education and come up with strict rules and regulations that will force them to educate us,” Daniel Musisi a pupil speaking on behalf of the children said.
UPE schools still charge for examination fees