Offering free land to foreign investors is commonplace in Uganda. On top of that, they receive tax exemptions.
However, the National Private Educational Institutions AssociationUganda (NPEIA) has asked Government for the same.
Hasadu Kirabira, the NPEIA national chairperson, said the land acquisition is one of the challenges proprietors of private schools face.
He said because of the challenge associated with land acquisition, they restrict the establishment of schools to a few regions, yet they can operate across the country.
Kirabira, who was addressing school proprietors yesterday at Silver Springs Hotel in Kampala, noted that they also suffer from the high tax burden.
These, coupled with a shortage of land for expansion, make private education provision expensive, “To start a school, you need about sh2b for infrastructure alone. This is a huge investment. The price of land and running costs are high,” he said.
“If only government treated us like foreign investors, gazette land for the establishment of schools across the country like it does for industries and allocate it to local school investors, we would have addressed the gaps in schools in the country,” Kirabira said.
If adopted, he said, regions such as the north and Karamoja, which do not have enough academic institutions, would be filled with a reasonable number from the private sector.
Currently, he said, there are more private academic institutions across all levels of education and that majority of these are located in the central region.
The benefits, he said, would reduce the cost of running institutions, which would eventually reduce the fees charged. It would also reduce ruralurban migration as parents search for better education facilities, Kirabira said.
He also explained that the move would reduce government expenditure on education and instead focus on quality education. “This arrangement can be designed in a way that would provide room for negotiations because we would be partners with the Government,” he said.
Kirabira made the remarks during a special NPEIA meeting for school owners on the recovery of private schools.
Arthur Isiko, the managing director of Bank of Africa, who was the chief guest, noted that private school proprietors need to be supported based on their contributions.
“Schools are the biggest consumers of food items, construction materials, steel products, and stationery, which indirectly contribute to the economy,” Isiko said.
However, following the outbreak of COVID-19, he said most of these were not left the same way and this explains why they need support. We have engaged schools on financial services and we established that they need support,” he said.
The 2020 assessment report to Gen. Salim Saleh, the chairman of Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), by private schools and institutions, indicated that there were 37,717 private nurseries, primary and secondary schools, as well as tertiary institutions, including universities.
The survey, which was facilitated by OWC to support the institutions, indicated that there were 18,500 pre-primary schools, 15,125 primary schools, 3,299 secondary schools, 751 tertiary institutions, and 40 universities, as well as two special needs institutions run by private proprietors.