BY STEVEN ENATU
Parents, Teachers Association (PTA), school management committees, and head teachers in the Soroti district have shown their unhappiness to the ministry of education for the removal of the PTA fee which was paid by learners in government schools.
The RDC Soroti Mr Salim Komakech made a pronouncement on the government’s position in abolishing PTA funds saying no school should levy PTA fees- money contributed by parents to support school activities.
According to Mr Komakech, the PTA fees would be only justifiable if children were passing well and the money is being used in a more transparent way.
“According to the statistics from the office of the District Education Officer, 50% of our learners passed in division 4 in 2021 PLE while others remained ungraded. This makes the relevance of PTA fees questionable and government position stands to have PTA abolished should stand,” Mr Komakech said.
This statement comes barely a year after the Minister for ICT Dr. Chris Baryomunsi said that in the last meeting of all ministers, they agreed to remove the PTA fee paid by learners in public schools that are under USE and UPE.
At an Education stakeholders meeting held on 23 September at Pioneer Primary School, several teachers said the removal of the PTA fee will disturb the school services since they have been using this money in incidents where the government delays sending UPE fees to schools.
The meeting attracted all head teachers of primary schools, the education department at the district, and the RDC, the teachers said abolishing PTA means that they would be unable to higher special teachers from other schools to help their pupils, adding that PTA fees should be maintained.
Many head teachers in the meeting said the removal of the PTA fees will disturb the day-to-day activities at the school and reduces the learning capacity of pupils; it means calling off weekend and night learning programs in schools since there will be no money to pay teachers hired for these programs.
Mr Andrew Ebil, a parent with a physical impairment who also doubles as the vice chairperson School Management Committee of Orimai primary school stressed that the PTA fees are used to build teachers’ houses which supplements government effort in ensuring that all teachers stay at school.
He stressed that some schools lack staff accommodation for teachers and the only way they can support teachers is through schools is by parents paying PTA fees.
Mr Richard Ongodia SMC chairperson of Gweri Primary School said PTA fees is doing a lot like paying teachers who are not on government payroll but teaching in government schools that have not enough teaching staff adding that the government should do a lot more consultation and revise the directive of scrapping the PTA fees.
Mr Julius Obubula, one of the PTA chairpersons said the directive by the RDC at the district level has made it very difficult to convince parents to pay even for meals at school, “Our relationship with the parents now is very poor yet this money is very good in helping us meet some of the challenges schools face” he stressed.
The Education Act says that parents in a meeting can agree to support the development of a school but the legality is challenging when 70% of parents say such charges are high and they cannot afford them.
Mr Komakech, however, said that during his visits to schools many parents testified that they can no longer afford the development fund which ranges from Shs 3000 to Shs 10,000shs per child in various schools across the Soroti district.
“And when I consulted the CAO and DEO, we agreed to put a halt to numerous charges from schools to parents including PTA,” Mr Komakech said.
Mr Aggrey Muramira, the CAO Soroti while acknowledging the relevance of PTA fees said that they cannot go against the government decision and asked school heads to halt.
“Government is coming up with a genuine reason that there are some parents who cannot afford the extra charges and yet education is a need and the government has its policy in ensuring that all children of school going age access quality education,” said Mr Muramira.
He added that they have listened to their concerns but that this calls for a dialogue to let the government understand the plight of school leaders.