Court orders Education Ministry to sanction schools that hiked school fees

Parents display chats expressing their dissatisfaction with school dues at High Court (PHOTO/Nelson Mandela).

Parents display chats expressing their dissatisfaction with school dues at High Court (PHOTO/Nelson Mandela).

KAMPALA – The High Court in Kampala has asked Ministry of Education to discuss the timelines with the applicants of the case in which the government was sued for failing to regulate schools that hiked school fees and other requirements amid reopening.

On January 17, human rights activists and lawyers, Andrew Karamagi and Michael Aboneka in collaboration with Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER), an independent, not-for-profit human rights organization responsible for promoting the effective understanding, monitoring, implementation, and realization of economic and social rights in Uganda took the ministry of education to court for failing to perform her constitutional role to regulate schools which have hiked school fees and school requirements amid reopening.

Uganda reopened its education sector on January 10, 2022, after two years of Covid-19 shut down but several parents and guardians revealed that they can no longer afford to take back their children to schools because of hiked school fees and other related items.

In their lawsuit, applicants said that as a result of the recent resumption and opening of schools, education institutions and universities and other tertiary institutions, without any authorization/on, formula and/or justification, have wantonly taken advantage of the same and charged exorbitant and extortive school fees, together with lists of unnecessary school requirements to be borne by the parents, guardians, and learners.

They wanted the court to immediately ban the mandatory solicitation of “school requirements” and any other non-cash contributions requested for by any school, including international schools, at all the four levels of education in Uganda that are not directly related to learning as per the approved curricular as provided for under Sections 3, 5, 57(j) of the Education (Pre Primary, Primary and Post Primary) Act, 2008.

They also revealed that the State has the primary role to provide education to its citizens under Objective XVII of the National and Directive Principles of State Policy and Article 30 of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda and that the Minister has a statutory duty to ensure that national policies and objectives as enshrined in the Constitution are implemented and observed at all levels of education.

The activists and ISER wanted the court to order the Minister of Education and Sports to immediately exercise her statutory obligation to perform her duties and exercise her mandate to regulate fees, charges, dues payable at any school, education institution including international institutions in Uganda.

Now, during the hearing of the case on Thursday, February 24, 2022 at High Court in Kampala, Justice Philip Odoki said that there seem to be things that the respondents agree with the applicants.

Speaking to the press after the hearing, Counsel Aboneka said that the court has asked the two sides to sit and agree on the timelines in which they’ll make the regulations come to force.

“The second issue is that court has given us until Tuesday to see if we can sit and meet and discuss but also we shall be coming back for scheduling.”

“The government response to our case is that they already started the process and the committee is in place since 2016 and it’s now more than four years the registrations are not here and this is why we are in court. Another thing we don’t agree with is the fact that they’re only talking about regulation for school fees for pre-primary, primary and post. Our application is covering universities, all educational institutions including international schools. So there are areas they seem to be agreeing with us and then are areas in which they are not, to which the court has said okay, you shall come back of March 1, to give the court the position.”

Aboneka re-echoed that it is important that the minister does her job.

“The act was put in place in 2008, you can’t tell me that over twelve years we don’t have a regulation for fees.”

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