By Kampala Post Reporter
GULU. Education and Sports Minister as well as First Lady Janet Museveni has cautioned both public and private schools’ management against levying school charges that have not been cleared by the Ministry authorities.
The First Lady told listeners of Mega FM, a Gulu based radio station, that many times the parents agree to contribute certain amounts of money for specific requirements in the school, but the Ministry must scrutinize these charges and they must all first be approved by the Permanent Secretary before they come into effect.
She was responding to a concern by parents in the Acholi region about the exorbitant charges they are made to pay to schools for instance for feeding the children, buying uniforms, purchase of school buses among many other costs.
Mrs. Museveni, who was in the Acholi region to mobilize parents to feed their children with nutritious meals at home and pack a midday meal for the school going children, was hosted by Mega FM on a talk show on Wednesday last week.
She urged the parents to watch out and report to the relevant authorities any extra costs that are imposed by the schools without the authorization of either the Permanent Secretary, Chief Administrative Officer or Town Clerk as the case may be.
She also noted that parents must consent to what the charge is for, how much it should be and for how long they will have to pay it.
“Additional charges must not be perpetual; they have to be for a fixed time,” she observed citing a situation where parents continue paying a charge for ‘purchase of a school bus’, even long after the bus has been acquired.
The Education Minister commended Gulu District Local Government for coming up with their School Feeding Policy, but however insisted that the best and affordable option is for parents to pack food for their children. She said a packed meal from home enables the parent to feed their children on a preferred and nutritious food instead of the monotonous food like posho or cassava and beans that may be prepared by the schools using the compulsory contributions to the schools by parents that the Gulu District policy proposes.
She assured the parents that provision of a midday meal for their children while at school is in line with the Education Act and helps improve the school retention, the child’s attention span and the academic performance. Article 13, 2 (C) of the Education Act, 2008 gives parents and guardians the responsibility to provide food, clothing, shelter, medical care and transport for pupils under Universal Primary Education (UPE) schools.
Mrs. Museveni pointed out that parents refusing to pack food for their school-going children is a mindset problem and called upon the Local Government leaders, Religious and Cultural leaders, the Mothers Union and the Catholic Women Association and other leaders at various levels to mobilize the parents to ensure that their children have a midday meal while at school. She also requested them to continuously educate the communities about nutritious feeding for their families and encourage them to grow vegetables and fruits in their backyard gardens which they would eat in addition to other foods to ensure a balanced diet.
She advised men not to leave everything in the hands of women but also fulfil their responsibility of caring for their families and ensuring they access basic needs of shelter, food, clothing and health care.
Mrs. Janet Museveni commended the Management and Staff of Mega FM for the work they do to mobilize the communities and requested them to keep the school feeding and nutrition fire that she has lit burning.
Kule Baritazale, a Commissioner in the Ministry’s Directorate of Education Standards, noted that it is inappropriate for UPE and USE Schools to introduce extra charges on parents, which he said has contributed to the increasing school drop outs.
“No charges should be introduced without the permission of the Permanent Secretary. We appeal to the Schools’ Management and Boards of Governors to internalize the UPE and USE Policies,” he said.
Other issues discussed rotated around the closing of all unlicensed schools, construction of Secondary schools in Sub counties that don’t have any, construction of staff houses, rehabilitation of traditional schools and the Policy shift in duration of Certificate courses from one year to two years among others.
The First Lady was accompanied by the State Minister for Northern Uganda Grace Freedom Kwiyuucwiny and State Minister for Primary Health Care Dr. Joyce Moriku Kaducu and Gulu District Chairperson Ojara Martin Mapenduzi.