COVID-19: Schools Taking Advantage of Disorganized Calendar to ‘Cheat’ Parents

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Several parents are crying foul as school operators take advantage of the current disorganized education calendar to over-charge them in school fees and scholastic requirements.  

While reopening schools after a long unprecedented holiday of nine months as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the government settled for a staggered approach to allow learners to attend classes in phases. The idea disorientated the school calendar.  

With the staggered approach, the government removed the term system and focused on recovering lost time which was the source of confusion, and parents were left at the mercy of the schools.  

Kenneth Ssembatya, a concerned parent, says that many parents are not sure of which term is in progress as their children are spending very limited time while at school but they are charged full school fees and requirements for the entire term.   

The irritated parent adds before one embarks on hunting for money for the next term, schools recall children setting tight school payment deadlines.      

Ssembatya further argues that the Ministry of Education and Sports seems to have lost control of the school calendar as schools set their own timelines for reopening and closing for given classes.   

Florence Nakazibwe, another parent of three school-going children, says even when the ministry of education was designing the revised school calendar, the parent was not considered as they set schedules including short holidays between learning periods.   

To her, the set calendar leaves the parent with no time to look for school fees and yet it is a difficult period when all businesses are trying to recover from the negative effects of COVID-19.

According to her argument, parents with semi candidates have to look for school fees for three terms in a space of four months given the fact that P6, S3 and S5 reported on March 1 and were expected to break off on May 21 and report back on June 7 for a special term that runs up to July 24, to complete the academic year 2020.   

After completing the academic year, they will spend two weeks at home and return to their respective schools on August 9 for the academic year 2021 now as candidates.   

Henry Jjuuko, another parent from Wakiso district says that its high time the Ministry of Education started regulating private schools over how they charge parents.    

However, in his recent circular, the Ministry of Education Permanent Secretary, Alex Kakooza noted that the created special term is a fraction of the normal school term urging schools to reflect the same while charging school fees.        

“School administrators are once again urged to work with the parents on flexible payments given the short notice and the financial constraints many families are going through. School administrators are reminded that the special is a fraction of the normal school term therefore the fees to be charged for the special term should reflect this fact.” the May 19 circular reads in part.    

With the Ministry’s circular, a few schools have slightly reduced their fees but not to the satisfaction of parents. For example, a parent who asked to remain anonymous says Greenhill Academy have reduced the fees for the next special term. The school had informed some parents earlier that they would charge 1.4 million shillings, but it has now been reduced to 1.07 shillings.  

“For God’s sake that doesn’t sound like reduction. the figure is still too high. Our children will be at school for only eight weeks,” the parent lamented.   

But, many other schools have not reduced by a shilling. Hasadu Kirabira, the chairperson of the National Private Schools and Institutions’ Association, says private schools are also in a hard corner over the matter. He says that the schools are spending yet their income is limited given the fact not all students are at school.    

Kirabira adds that the situation might not change any time soon as the designed school calendar for the next three years is also almost setting a very limited term and only two weeks’ holiday.  

From his perspective, to have a compromising position, the government has to give a stimulus package to educational institutions inform of tax holidays or bailouts on their different fixed expenditures.  

Without such, Kirabira notes that there is no way how schools can be able to reduce their charges as it is their sole source of income.        

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