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62% drop out of secondary schools due to lack of fees

By Vision Reporter

Added 17th September 2006 03:00 AM

AS schools open for Third Term today, most students will report without or with partial fees. On average most secondary schools around the Central region charge sh350,000 as school fees per term. But some schools charge close to sh1m per term.

AS schools open for Third Term today, most students will report without or with partial fees. On average most secondary schools around the Central region charge sh350,000 as school fees per term. But some schools charge close to sh1m per term.

By Alice Emasu

AS schools open for Third Term today, most students will report without or with partial fees. On average most secondary schools around the Central region charge sh350,000 as school fees per term. But some schools charge close to sh1m per term.

Although requirements vary from school to school, it is almost impossible for a parent to spend less than sh100,000 on school requirements every term. This is not to mention the cost of visiting the student during the term.

The high charges coupled with poverty has rendered the Government’s contribution of sh60 per child per school day towards the education of children in government-aided secondary schools useless.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Education, although about 180,000 students join Senior One (S1), only about 45,000 reach S6 with lack of fees accounting for 62% of the drop outs. The second highest cause of drop out is pregnancy and marriage which account for 11%.

The highest dropout occurs in the lower classes. The 2004 Education Ministry Statistical abstract shows that as high as 29% of the students drop out in S1 and a similar percentage in S2. Another 24% drop out in S3; 19% in S4 and S5 and S6 each lose 3%.

Key education stakeholders agree that the charges in most good schools are beyond the means of most parents. As a result, schools have adopted flexible methods of fees payments.

Dr. John Muyingo, the headmaster of Uganda Martyrs’ S S, Namugongo, says whenever the term opens in the middle of the month, about 50% of the students report without fees. “We allow them to study up to the 15th of the following month to allow the parents ample time to organise the money,” Muyingo says.

However, he says, “Non-payment of school fees in time has a lot to do with parents’ attitude towards the education of their children. Attitudes influence their planning and saving for fees. Some parents who value education put in a lot of effort, including, getting loans, to pay fees,” he says.

Yusuf Nsubuga, the commissioner for secondary education, says many parents have complained over the high school dues for secondary education. Nsubuga says the ministry is considering bringing down the high charges.

“But we fear to handle it hurriedly and risk tampering with the quality of education. That is why the Government is introducing the Universal Post-primary Education and Training,” he says.

In the new innovations to bail out parents, at Rubaga Girls, parents who do not have fees are issued with forms where they indicate when they would bring the money. They are restricted to pay all the fees before the end of term.

“We came up with the innovation to improve academic excellence,” says Sr Vianney, the headmistress.

The idea was conceived because most of the students were missing the beginning of term exams.

One parent said though lining up for forms is embarrassing, the system has helped them a lot. “My daughter was able to return to school on the first day even when I did not have money,” he said.

Fagil Mandy, an education consultant with Famecon Ltd, describes the Rubanga Girls’ School innovation as a great avenue that should be emulated by more schools.
“The parents’ failure to pay school fees in time is not a question of attitudes. It might be a problem of inability to budget well,” he says.

Mandy says the problem is worsened by the Government’s failure to intervene and bring down the high fees charges, especially in government schools. “Why should government and private schools charge almost the same costs? There are a lot of unnecessary costs that should have been dealt away with like the PTA that the ministry of education has failed to stamp out,” he says.

There are also other school initiatives that have helped students to acquire education. For instance, the School Dependant’s programme, whereby the students are allowed to study free and they work at the school. There is also barter trade, where parents exchange food items for fees.

Kaberamaido District Education Officer Moses Ocung says for the past two years, most secondary schools in the district have preferred that parents take maize and beans instead of cash towards their children’s feeding.

To make the process of quantifying the grains easier, the school’s administration breaks down the fees charged per term into smaller units.

Ocung says despite the fact that most schools in the district charge about sh45,000 as fees and another sh53,000 for feeding, many parents are unable to pay all the amount required in cash.

Additional reporting by John Eremu

62% drop out of secondary schools due to lack of fees

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