South Sudan union of private schools rejects new tuition fees structure issued by government

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South Sudan’s general education ministry issued an order stopping private schools from increasing school fees this year. The deputy minister for general education told reporters in Juba on Thursday his ministry has received several complaints from parents across the country accusing private schools of charging exorbitant tuition fees and some schools demanding the fees be paid in dollars. A union representing private schools said it will not abide by the ministerial order.

Mark Tako Moyi, the deputy minister for general education said his ministry recently suspended registration of students in private schools after dozens of parents complained to his office and to the secondary school education department about private school administrators charging much higher school fees this year.

“It was unbearable for the parents that the private schools charge very highly, some of them even charge in US dollars by the way, and then there are multiple charges here, we have a school charging for the form, it varies from 2[000] to 10,000 [SSP], that is just for a form, then some charge very expensively, and see how unbearable it would be for the parents to manage; one school in Munuki Payam charged, 3,250 US dollars per annum, per academic year and another school, this is primary and nursery section, they charged, 1,290 US dollars,” said Moyi.

Moyi said he is aware that a few private schools at least held meetings with parents and mutually agreed on school fees considering the current economic situation.

He said his ministry will not allow schools to charge higher fees this year, nor will schools be permitted to demand that the fees be paid in foreign currencies.

“All private schools to charge school fees in Republic of South Sudan only in South Sudanese pounds, not any other foreign currency; number two the private schools to charge annual school fees not exceeding 80,000 South Sudanese Pounds only, and this 80,000 is per academic year and this is to be divided by 3 terms, and this includes everything the boarding schools to feed them and all this; so we decided that the boarding schools should not exceed 200,000 South Sudanese Pounds,” said Moyi.

Moyi said payments for students’ extra-curricular activities like sports should be made optional for parents and guardians. He urged parents of students enrolled in private schools without Parents Teachers Associations to establish them this year.

Isaac Woja, a member of the Board of Directors of Juba Academy Boarding Secondary School, said he understands parents’ complaints but said it would have been better if the ministry had engaged school directors to understand why certain fees are being charged. He said his school solely relies on school fees to pay for school meals, medical treatment, fuel for electricity and the salaries of staff. He said the proposed 200-thousand South Sudanese Pounds charged for tuition fees will not cover school expenses.

Woja said if a student pays 200-thousand pounds for 3 terms which is 270 days, every child will spend only 800 South Sudanese Pounds per day which he said does not even cover meals with the country’s higher food prices.

“We provide 3 meals, that’s breakfast, lunch and super, so feeding alone the 800 pounds, can’t, that is money for one meal alone and that’s a meal of beans or eating korofo?, so it would have been good for the Ministry to look at the challenges boarding schools go through in providing meals for the students and that’s only our concern, so if food prices were lower, that would have been okay but they are coming up with these directives when we know the prices of food items are very high,” said Woja.

Achier John Manyuat, Vice President of the South Sudan Union of Private Schools, and Director of the Juba-based Saint Lawrence Academy Nursery, Primary and Secondary School, said it’s unfair for the ministry to group the private schools with the community schools and faith-based schools because he said, those institutions are often publicly funded. He said the ministry must understand that South Sudan has a free-market economy based on supply and demand. Manyuat said private schools will not abide by the ministerial order.

“We are going to deliver our letter on Monday to Vice President for service cluster and copy is going to be taken to the ministry of general education and all state ministries of education that the position of the private schools, we are not going per that circular, it must be taken very clear, we are not going for that circular. Should one of the schools get affected, we have nothing than to put down the tools.”

Manyuat said although the education act allows the government to regulate schools, it does not give the government powers to determine fees charged by private institutions. He also warned that the government’s decision may scare off potential investors which in turn will affect the education sector in a country that has a high illiteracy rate.

Public schools opened on Monday this week after being closed for more than a year due to Covid-19.

Source: winniecirino

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