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Parents, Schools Dipped In School Fees Row Ahead Of Reopening


There is a deepening row between school operators and parents on the recovery of school fees paid during the term that prematurely ended in June this year, at the start of the second COVID-19 lockdown.

Several parents had just paid school fees for their children when the government announced the lockdown just a day to the scheduled reopening, for children in lower primary, and less than a month into school for a few other classes. But on closure, not a single penny was returned to them yet students never received the service.

Mark Maraka, a resident of Kyaliwajala in Kira municipality, says he had a learner in Senior two, who had spent only two weeks in school. He adds that before the first lockdown his Senior One daughter had studied for two weeks and he never recovered the money when the schools closed.

Maraka says that there should be a win-win situation for both parties with schools refunding parents’ money or treating it as a balance carried forward so that they don’t pay more when a new term reopens.

Elman Nsinda, a parent from Kawempe, also wonders what they will be paying for when schools re-open next year. According to her, his child was joining primary one and he had completed all the school fees when schools were closed.

Faridah Mwanje, another parent says that she has paid fees prior to the official date of reopening for the lower primary category and when they announced the closure she managed to recover the money by diverting it to online studies. But, she observes that schools need to improvise means for the parents to recover the fees at all costs.

Hasadu Kirabira, the Chairperson of the National Private Educational Institutions Association (NPEIA), acknowledges that schools owe parents given the fact that the service they paid for was never provided. Kirabira, however, observes a need for computing the money for the days that the learners spent at school and that schools can agree to carry the balance forward.

Micheal Kironde, the Director of Janan Schools, notes that whereas schools would like to refund the money or even carry it forward for the new term, they are already stressed and might not be able to give services should parents fail to pay fees for the coming term.

Kironde, however, notes that there needs to be an agreement on a possible way forward which can be discussed through meetings between the school and parents.

However, Annet Nambi, another parent, says that holding meetings with schools is a ploy to take the money as at times schools have a way to push their ideas in such meetings.

“We have been there; we know how it works. In those meetings, schools get influencers who raise issues in favour of the school and in the end, they create an impression that it was a majority decision. This matter needs no decision. We paid, they didn’t teach. Tell them to refund or carry the balance forward,” said Nambi.

Nambi added that when school reopened after the first school closure, school operators were not lenient to any parent as they demand their arrears carried from the incomplete term. “We faithfully paid. it’s their turn now. They didn’t forgive those who had not paid, why do they expect us to forget about our hard-earned money?” she added.

With the discussion going on, some schools have already communicated to their parents highlighting that if one had paid fees, he will not be charged again. For instance, URN has seen a memo from Kabojja Junior School informing parents that all those who had paid fees in June, will not be charged again for the upcoming term.

“…this is to reaffirm that those students who had paid school fees for the term that was meant to start on June 6, 2021, will have those sums credited to the first term of next year. Please disregard the banking slips. Confirmation of payment may be collected from accounts offices,” the memo read in part.

Parents expect that the government should this time do something to ensure that schools don’t cheat them. However, the Ministry of Education and Sports has over the years failed to regulate or have a say about school fees in private schools leaving parents at mercy of schools.

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