By vision reporter
A FEW years ago, the Government liberalized various sectors in the economy, encouraging private investors to take part in the countryâ€™s development. Education was one of the sectors liberalised to make it accessible to all Ugandans.
Since that time, private schools have increased from none in 1980 to 5,824 by 2007, according to the ministry of education. But amidst this, there are a number of challenges.
According to Albert Byamugisha, the assistant commissioner for planning, some private schools open with no facilities. â€œSome start under mango trees and others in garages. These places donâ€™t provide conducive conditions for learners and as a result, the studentsâ€™ performance declines,â€ he says.
Moses Mulwana, the senior education officer for secondary education, says many private schools lack teaching materials like textbooks, laboratories and libraries.
â€œUnlike government schools which are given text books and grants to set up expensive equipment for learners, private schools donâ€™t enjoy this and have to depend on fees from students. When fees are not paid on time, many activities are bogged down,â€ he adds.
Paul Mukasa, the director of Makindye Junior, a private school in Kampala, says: â€œIt means the teachers would not be paid and long-term programmes like construction of classrooms and other facilities would not take off. This would affect teachersâ€™ motivation and their quality of work,â€ he says.
He says sometimes, there is a clash of activities.
â€œLong-term programmes like construction of school facilities are likely to clash with short-term activities like payment of teachers and provision of welfare to the students. If you do not strike a balance between the two, you could lose a lot,â€ he says.
Byamugisha says the owner of the school may close down the premises, so the teachers or pupils have to go back home. Unlike government teachers who get pension, teachers in private schools do not.
â€œThere is job security for government teachers. It is not easy to sack someone on the payroll, but if such a teacher loses their job, they have pension to fall back to,â€ he says.
Alice Namono, a proprietor of a private school in Mukono, says the biggest problem is that majority are run as businesses and as a result, they do not meet the minimum standards.
â€œMany schools open doors to students, but hardly have space for extra curricular activities. They do not have playgrounds or guidance and counselling services for students,â€ she adds.
Namono says because of this, most of the schools are not stable performers and have a high turnover of students and teachers.
â€œYou canâ€™t run it like a business, hoping to succeed. You have to separate business from academics. You have to leave the technical people to run the school even if it means making losses. The fruits can be realised later,â€ Namono adds.
Byamugisha says private schools have to invest a lot of money in facilities and staff. â€œThis would attract good teachers and the performance would improve.â€
Guidelines on how you can set up a private institution in Uganda
THE 2008 Pre-Primary, Primary and Post Primary Education Act provides for the establishment of private schools. According to the education ministry, anyone who wants to establish a school shall apply to the permanent secretary, chief administrative officer or town clerk, to be approved and the applicant shall be of good repute with enough funds to manage the institution.
The person shall seek advice and approval of the ministry, district or urban council in respect of the following matters:
Before the application is approved, the prospective school owner shall be required to fulfill the following:
Satisfy them that the teachers to be engaged in the institution are eligible to teach in that school
Compiled by Frederick Womakuyu