KAMPALA – Ugandans have cited excessive financial contributions demanded from schools as the biggest problem they are facing in educating their children according to a new survey.
This according to the data from Sauti za Wananchi, Africa’s first nationally representative high-frequency mobile phone survey for 2019 released this month.
The survey says excessive financial demands by schools were a common problem cited in regard to secondary schools, where one out of four (23%) cite the issue, but even for primary schools (14%), it is cited more than any other issue.
“In both primary and secondary schools, parents say the main challenge they face in regards to their children’s school is the excessive amount of financial contributions required from parents by schools,” reads the report by Sauti za Wananchi in part accessed by PML Daily.
The 2019 Sauti za Wananchi report adds that eight out of ten parents (81%) say they continue to pay money to schools for a range of purposes, including tuition or extra classes (68%), food (60%), school books or other materials (58%), construction work (57%) or to support volunteer teachers (48%).
Ms. Connie Nakayenze, the Mbale woman Member of Parliament and former Chairperson Parliamentary Committee on Education consented the survey is spot on especially on excessive demands from schools.
She said when you look at admission for a child who is going to Senior One and Senior five, the government tuition is low but that the demands from schools including buying uniform, from school, make the fees expensive for most parents to afford.
“I know that schools demand paper, Slashers, hoes, toilet paper, brushes, some even demand cement, baking flour that makes the fees very expensive and I think this report is spot on, it represents the views of the parents,” said Ms. Nakayenze.
The report further reveals that both levels of school [Primary and Secondary], distance to the school is the second most cited issue, with one out of ten naming distance as a problem in both primary (12%) and secondary (12%) schools
Reports from the Ministry of Education indicate that funding to government primary schools is in the form of a grant given per child, per year to each school is Shs 7,000 for UPE and Shs 41,000 for USE per learner per year
The report titled: Money matters in schools, Ugandan citizens’ views and experiences on schools and school finance, further says the parents interviewed also cited another problem as a shortage of teachers and teacher absenteeism in schools.
In the area of choosing schools for their children, the report says that parents choosing schools for their children prioritise exam pass rates and motivated teachers.
“And eight out of ten citizens (80%) say examination pass rates would be one of the main factors they would take into consideration when choosing a school for their children,” reads the report in part.
And the report adds that seven out of ten (69%) say they would look for motivated teachers and that half (47%) say good buildings and equipment are important adding that many would look for a school with a good reputation (43%).
The former National Council for Higher Education executive director, Prof A.B. Kasozi says extra financial contributions demanded by schools have made education very expensive for the poor and that apparently it is the rich who are going to school.
Ms Esther Anyakun, the Nakapiripirit Woman MP said although Education is not free, Schools should not make excessive demands that will scare away parents.
“For me, I know that schools have to run financially but extra demands in form of cement, paper, baking flour and any other fees charged outside the tuition provided by the government through capitation grants must end to allow everyone accesses an education,” said Ms Anyakun.
The report reveals further that although around half of citizens are aware of the primary school capitation grant, four out of ten citizens (41%) are confident that they have heard of the capitation grant for primary schools, another four out of ten (43%) say they have not heard of the grant, even after probing.
The report says that upon interrogation, most common uses of capitation grant funds identified by citizens are the purchase of school materials (28%), construction work (11%), paying teachers (9%) and teacher and student welfare (9%) but that this is dwarfed by the number of citizens who were not confidently aware of the capitation grant in regards to their children’s school (59%).
This data comes barely a year after another Twaweza survey  found that parents say the main reasons for sending their children to school are “to give them a good future” (73%), “so that they can learn” (59%).