In Summary

The issue: Poor schools
Our view: The ministry needs to review its decentralised registration and licensing of schools, and ensure cooperation of local officials.

The back and forth of close-and-reopen game between Education ministry and unlicensed or illegal private schools should stop. Any of those schools that do not meet the basic minimum required standards should use the two-month grace period to sort out their problems or close shop by December as ordered.

Indeed, no school should operate without trained or registered teachers, neither without teaching or learning aids. Neither should any school children be instructed on some obscure curriculum. But with these distressing conditions in more than 1,400 private schools countrywide, there’s little wonder that a World Bank report ranks Uganda as the second country in the world with the dullest pupils who cannot count, read and solve simple arithmetic.

The above worrisome findings should be part of the reasons why the Education ministry should not also accept any less than fit for-purpose learning environments for our youngsters. The logic here is simple - that co-curricular activities - including physical exercise, are essential part of mental and psychological wellbeing of learners.

This is well illustrated in a Latin phrase – Mens sana in corpore sano (rendered as “a healthy mind in a healthy body.”) This is why neither parents nor private educationists should allow any children to learn from a garage, shop, bar, and private sitting rooms, which are crammed and are inappropriate. Lamentably, these problems have been dogging our schools as far back as 2014. The crisis was first unearthed when the ministry’s pilot project to map all schools found out that 1,500 schools were operating illegally in Kampala City and Wakiso District.

The persistency of these anomalies should force the ministry to answer the hard question of why these schools continue to defying their order. Perhaps it is not just enough for the ministry to blame the mess on private schools. It should also cut down the bureaucracy in licensing and registration of private schools.
Previously, this newspaper suggested that there are likely cases of schools that could have rushed to operate instead of wait for the needlessly time-consuming procedures of approval by government, as cited by Mr Asadu Kirabira, the in-charge of research at National Private Education Institutions Association.

Over all, private schools remain crucial fill-ins for education and widen our children’s rights and access to education. This is why a win-win solution is best to clearing the quagmire. The ministry needs to review its decentralised registration and licensing of schools, and ensure cooperation of local officials, and Uganda Education Private Schools Association to impart more vigour, better supervision, and licensing only fit-for-purpose private schools.