Challenges of starting a school

By Vision Reporter

A FEW years ago, the Government liberalized various sectors in the economy, encouraging private investors to take part in the country’s development. Education was one of the sectors liberalised to make it accessible to all Ugandans.

By vision reporter

A FEW years ago, the Government liberalized various sectors in the economy, encouraging private investors to take part in the country’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. “Some start under mango trees and others in garages. These places don’t provide conducive conditions for learners and as a result, the students’ performance declines,” he says.

Moses Mulwana, the senior education officer for secondary education, says many private schools lack teaching materials like textbooks, laboratories and libraries.

“Unlike government schools which are given text books and grants to set up expensive equipment for learners, private schools don’t enjoy this and have to depend on fees from students. When fees are not paid on time, many activities are bogged down,” he adds.

Paul Mukasa, the director of Makindye Junior, a private school in Kampala, says: “It 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 teachers’ motivation and their quality of work,” he says.

He says sometimes, there is a clash of activities.

“Long-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,” 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.

“There 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,” 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.

“Many 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,” she adds.

Namono says because of this, most of the schools are not stable performers and have a high turnover of students and teachers.

“You can’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,” Namono adds.

Byamugisha says private schools have to invest a lot of money in facilities and staff. “This would attract good teachers and the performance would improve.”

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:

  • Whether the proposed school forms or will form part of the education development plan prepared or approved by the committee responsible for education for a given area; and whether the proposed school meets or will meet the educational needs

  • An application for establishing a private school by the prospective owner shall be supported by at least three people of high integrity and good standing in the area where the institution is to be established.

  • Before the application is approved, the prospective school owner shall be required to fulfill the following:

  • Have the building plan, lease offers, agreements and land titles for the proposed school or for extension or alterations to some existing building approved by the district education committees

  • Have the complete buildings inspected and approved by appropriate authorities;

  • Engage a headteacher who, in the opinion of the permanent secretary or town clerk, is suitable for the type of school he intends to establish

  • Satisfy them that the teachers to be engaged in the institution are eligible to teach in that school
  • Ensure that the physical, health and moral welfare of the pupils will be adequately provided for

  • Ensure that the school will not refuse admission to any pupil on any discriminatory grounds

  • Ensure that school environment is conducive for pupils with special needs

  • Incase of registering a school, show evidence of land ownership; and for purposes of this section, buildings in semi-permanent material shall be acceptable as suitable if they are approved by authorities

  • Permission shall be given in the form of a license to operate a provisionally classified school for two years.

  • If, after a period of two school years, the authorities are satisfied that the school is properly run and organised, one shall issue a certificate of registration

  • That all or any of the conditions set under this Act have not been fulfilled, one may extend the provisional license for a period not exceeding one school year or order the school to be closed.

  • Compiled by Frederick Womakuyu

    Challenges of starting a school