By Keefa Nuwahereza
Several affected parents in Uganda have petitioned the minister for Education First Lady Janet Kataaha Museveni, over school administrators who are demanding them to pay school fees, despite not teaching students as a result of schools being closed.
President Yoweri Museveni closed schools, universities, tertiary institutions and all other academic facilities following his announcement of the COVID-19 Lockdown in March this year.
He announced that government would provide study materials for pupils and students, which they would use to catch up on the lessons they will miss during the period of the lockdown.
However, several parents argue that although the schools are still closed, they are getting constant messages and calls from school administrators demanding for fees for both first and second terms.
These continued demands for school fees during the COVID-19 lockdown has prompted concerned parents through their lawyers of Simon, Tendo and Kagwa (STEK) Advocates to petition the Minister for Education to crack the whip on these inconsiderate and greedy school administrators.
Their petition dated June 29th, 2020, reads in part thus;
RE: ILLEGAL CHARGING OF SCHOOL FEES DURING LOCKDOWN
We act for parents of children in private schools and have instructions to address you as hereunder.
On the 24th day of March 2020, well before end of term, schools and institutions of higher learning were closed and banned from operation, effectively suspending their licenses to teach, by presidential directive and operation of the law under Regulation 9(1) (a) of the Public Health (Control of COVID-19) Rules, 2020 Statutory Instrument No.52 of 2020 as amended. This has effectively closed down schools for more three months now.
However, contrary to the law, certain private schools and institutions have shockingly decided to charge parents school fees for the period in which the said schools have been and continue to be closed and banned from operation.
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 these operate illegally, have ignored and demeaned parents’ pleas and even threatened to expel students from school for nonpayment of these illegal fees. It is absurd.
Some have established methods not provided for in the Education (Pre-primary, Primary and Post Primary Act, 2008) or the regulations thereunder to stay in touch with a small fraction of students (leaving out the majority who cannot afford these expensive methods in these difficult times) and purported to carry on with the suspended curriculum.
They have used this as a pulpit to illegally charge school fees directly and under different guises and names. Please find enclosed for your case of reference, circulars and correspondences from some of the schools in the public domain in this respect marked as ‘S’, ‘I’ and ‘UV’.
The purpose of this letter is not only to bring this illegal conduct to your attention but, most importantly request that you reign in on the school administrations and call them to order. Our clients feel that litigation should not be an option when we have a Ministry as functional as yours.
We also suggest that you engage and give guidance to these schools on how they might cope with or cover their losses from COVID-19 like some other schools have (E.g Suspending, postponing or negotiating 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 motivations for their irregular conduct.”
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