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By Mulengera Reporter

A section of parents whose children attend top private schools have written to First Lady and Education Minister Janet Kataaha Museveni complaining of “illegal fees charged during the lockdown.”

Represented by Simon Tendo Kabenge Advocates, the parents claim that schools have “shockingly” decided to charge them school fees during the period when education institutions are expected to be closed in line with President Yoweri Museveni’s directive for closure to prevent the spread of Covid19.

“The said schools, many of which have refused to establish a Board of Governors or Parents Teachers Association (through which this decision would have been addressed, and therefore operate illegally, have ignored and demeaned parents’ pleas and even threatened to expel students from school for non-payment of these illegal fees. It is absurd,” write the parents in their letter received by the Minister’s office on June 30.

They cite Kampala Parents School which demanded Shs1.85m from each parent by the start of July as fees for facilitation of online teaching. The situation is almost similar at Daffodils School where parents have been required to pay 75 per cent of the normal school term fees for P5-P7, and 70 per cent for P1-P4 despite pleas from the parents’ representative that the money was too much.

In an emergency meeting of the School Management Committee convened on June 26 to discuss concerns raised from a June 24 circular, parents, through their representative, had requested to pay only 50 per cent of the second term’s amount “in light of the challenges parents are going through like pay cuts and closure of business premises” and “the expenses incurred by the parents to facilitate online lessons i.e. supervision (time), data bundles, gadgets (computers, phones and tabs), space, stationery and printers.”

Daffodils wrote back with a request to parents “to understand that the school has major costs irrespective of whether students are in school or not.”

“Being a private school the total cost of running the school is solely on the income of school fees. We will be barely able to make ends meet as the major chunk of school fees will go on staff salaries and the premises rent,” Administrator Josephine Oketcho replied.

The parents also complained about the use of teaching methods not provided for in the laws governing the education sector, most of which means are expensive. At Daffodils, for example, the parents’ representative had requested that all classes be shifted to Zoom instead of Google Classroom. But the school explained that Google Classroom was cheaper, including for parents with more than once child in the school, and would require less time for supervision from parents, most of whom are gradually returning to work with the phased easing of the lockdown.

Meanwhile, at the Aga Khan Education Service (AKESU) International School, parents are preparing to cough more money after the institution, through its CEO Antony Eysele, wrote to them detailing what needs to be put in place once government announces reopening of education institutions’ gates to learners after months of lockdown.

The parents in these and other top city schools now want the First Lady to “immediately rein in the school administrations and call them to order” for their “illegal conduct” to avoid further legal action because for now they “feel that litigation should not be an option when we have an Education Ministry as functional as yours.”

“We also suggest that you engage and give guidance to this schools on how they might cope with or cover their losses from Covid19 like some other schools have (e.g. suspending, postponing or renegotiating major contractual obligations due to Force Majeure to obviate the financial squeeze) without burdening parents and students who are already equally affected as this seems to be the motivation for their irregular conduct,” advised the parents’ lawyers of Simon Tendo Kabenge Advocates.

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