Proprietors of private schools have asked the government to create a relief fund for them of at least Shs500 billion to enable them smoothly prepare for the reopening of schools in January next year.
The Igara East MP, Mr Michael Mawanda, who brought the request before Parliament’s Education committee yesterday, said the fund will also enable the school owners recover from the shocks induced by the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns.
He also asked that the money be availed by end of December to enable school owners plan accordingly.
“According to the information we have, bank loans are now about Shs1.7 trillion, but we are not saying the government should shoulder that, we are looking at that component of Covid-19, which comes to about Shs500b, which is not a lot of money,” Mr Mawanda said.
He added: “Government can be able to restructure something so that these institutions are able to reopen. These schools need a fund if government is reopening in January, there [should] be a fund in December.”
Mr Mawanda said schools will also use the funds to buy hand sanitisers, soap and temperature guns.
MPs reject move
However, a section of lawmakers dismissed the suggestion, saying many private school owners have in the past charged exorbitant fees and other materials.
“Although the government can support private schools, many are owned by money-oriented people, they have turned education into a social economy by baking students, and you only deceive this country that you are training these children yet they can’t defend their degrees,” Mr Charles Onen, the Gulu East MP, said.
The Jonam County MP, Mr Emmanuel Ongiertho and Shadow Education minister Brendah Nabukenya agreed with their colleague, saying private school bosses had been tough and unfairly treated their workers with many being poorly paid.
“I think we need to know clearly if Parliament supports this motion, how is it going to affect schools fees, we would want to support private schools but we would want to see fairness. How does it positively justify the high fees charges?” Ms Nabukenya asked.
Mr Mawanda’s proposal is in line with the motion that the Kyankwanzi Woman MP, Ms Christine Sendawula, tabled recently, urging government to bail out private schools and institutions.
Ms Sendawula told Parliament that at least 3,500 people lost their jobs due to the closure of schools.
“The education-related debt burden is close to Shs2 trillion with increasing interest charged at 22 per cent to 26 per cent daily. Some schools are at the verge of being auctioned. The loss of revenue has impacted the employment capacity in the private education sector with more than 3,500 teachers laid off,” Ms Sendawula said.
This is the first time private schools owners have asked government to rescue them on the matter.
In August, the Minister of Finance, Mr Matia Kasaija, told the owners to sell off their property and pay off the loans if they don’t want their schools to be auctioned.