Joshua Mivule (not real name) is a parent with a candidate studying in one of the schools in Iganga Municipality. On Wednesday morning, Mivule picked his phone and called the school proprietor but what started as a cordial conversation turned into a verbal exchange when he (Mivule) told the proprietor he had cleared his son’s fees before schools closed and was only waiting for the D-day to escort him back to school. Attempts by the school director to inform Mivule that he needed to pay fees afresh because his child was coming back for a new term fell on deaf ears leading to a bitter exchange.
“Mr headmaster I had cleared fees for a whole term and I can’t pay again,” Mivule retorted from the other side of the telephone.
“Please you will pay because this is a new term and if you don’t want to pay, you will take your child elsewhere,” the headmaster replied.
Such exchanges between school owners and parents are likely to be on the increase as schools prepare to resume business on October 15.
At a senate meeting held at one of the institutions in Jinja on Friday, there was a heated debate on the issue of finalists who had completed tuition for the semester that was supposed to end in May.
“Some students had paid all their dues including Uganda Business and Technical Examinations Board (UBTEB) fees for the semester ending in May and the institutions were closed in March. They should just come back and prepare for their exams,” said one official who preferred anonymity.
Other senate members, however, said that with the exception of UBTEB fees, students should pay tuition afresh to facilitate the running of the institution.
“We will have to start afresh with all students beginning on a clean shit whether they had balances or not. We should treat this as a new semester and all students should pay. I believe it will be the same situation in the hostels where students are residing,” said an official.
Some institutions are also finding it difficult to determining the actual finalists.
“Students in their second year pursuing certificate and diplomas and those in third year pursuing bachelors degrees are finalists regardless of which semester they are in,” said Kampala University academic registrar Fred Mukasa.
Richard Muyombya, a tutor at YMCA, however, says that all students at university and tertiary level are finalists in their own right.
He also watered down the idea of automatic promotion of students which he said cannot apply to higher institutions of learning.
“All students at higher institutions of learning are finalists and exams they do at the end of every semester are final and appear on their transcripts,” he said.
He also wondered what the Education ministry plans to do for those who sat Senior Six last year and are supposed to have joined university in August.
“The Education minister, Janet Museveni, said no body will get a dead year and I wonder whether those who were supposed to join university in August will be automatically promoted to second year,” he said.
Muyombya also said it was time for government to extend a helping hand to the distressed parents by paying UNEB and UBTEB fees.
“Some parents last received a salary in February and it will be foolhardy to expect such parents to meet their fees obligations as well as pay UNEB and UBTEB fees,” he said.
Legislators earlier this week urged government to bail out parents by paying UNEB and UBTEB fees for final year students.
On October 15th, education institutions will be reopening for candidate classes and finalists at primary, secondary and higher institutions of learning after nearly seven months of closure. But as these institutions embark on final preparations aimed at ensuring that the Ministry of Health and presidential guidelines are followed to the letter, the many unanswered questions are likely to put parents and school owners on a collision course.