With the COVID-19 induced financial stress, institutions that have been out of business are limping, and in fact, many schools have closed shop turning classrooms into rentals, bars, and poultry houses, among others. But for all these institutions, all it has taken is a pronouncement by the owners and administrators that the school is no more.
When East High School Ntinda abruptly closed days after
reopening for a new term, many parents and learners questioned how the administration abruptly closed an education institution without notifying them.
With the COVID-19
induced financial stress, institutions that have been out of business are limping, and in fact, many schools have closed shop turning classrooms
into rentals, bars, and poultry houses, among others. But for all these institutions, all it has taken is a pronouncement by the owners and administrators that the school is no more.
Christopher Lwanga, one of the parents affected by the
closure of East High School, wondered whether the education ministry couldn’t help the desperate learners. To him, the act by the proprietors was inappropriate and needed a higher authority to intervene.
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Nakaseke District Education Officer Steven Batanudde says that although it's a rare occurrence; when a
public school is closed, its code is shifted to another place and so are its records, teachers and sometimes even the learners.
Referring to Gomero Primary School in Ngoma Town Council which was
recently closed due to low enrollment, Batanudde said that its code was given to
another school within the same district. He explains that shifting the code
means that the teachers and other resources are taken from that school to
“...The code carries everything, the payment rolls for teachers, and
capitation and the records of the closed school. The process involves
discussion among the Public Service Ministry, Education Ministry and the Ministry of Finance,”
the education officer explained. He, however, adds that the government or a district cannot
abruptly close a public school.
In the case of Gomero Primary School,
Batanudde says the school’s enrollment had reduced over the years to only three
learners. “In consultation with local leaders, parents and community, it was agreed to close the school and transfer the available teachers to
Kirangaazi Chance Primary School, a new school which had been constructed at
another village to save the children,” he added.
Unlike public schools, Batanudde says that the indefinite
closure of private schools is not clear because it depends entirely on the interests of the proprietor. He, however, adds that there is a situation
where the education authorities can force the school to be closed if it fails
to comply with the required education standards.
“Private schools are businesses and when the proprietor is
making losses, he can choose to close. But, it's humane to inform the parents
and education officers before closure. The basic issue is to ensure that the
affected learners can access education services from another school,” he added.
His explanation on the matter can be traced to Najjera
progressive Primary School, one of the schools which were affected by the first lockdown. Before closing the school, Andrew Timothy Nsamba, its director, sent a notice to parents, and teachers indicating that the school had
The school signed a Memorandum of
Understanding with Tropical Primary School, Najjeera to take on all the willing
staff and learners who meet their standards at the same terms and conditions of
services and also made it the point of reference for all former students. A
separate communication was sent to parents advising them to find alternative schools
for their children.
Although the Education Act cites how a private school can change
ownership and reopen after a voluntary temporary closure, it is silent on
how a school can indefinitely close. For instance, Section 43 of the Education
Act explains how a school voluntarily closed by its owner can be reopened
after informing the Permanent Secretary, Chief Administrative Officer or Town Clerk, in writing.
The same section further requires the proprietor to notify
education authorities when he or she intends to close the school for a period
exceeding 30 working days, other than during normal school holidays.
This section of the
Act is key in the case of East High School Ntinda, given the fact that its proprietors claimed that they are closing the
school to pave way for renovations.
But, information obtained from the
education ministry shows that the school never informed authorities as required
before asking parents to pick their learners. The closure was a surprise to
education officials at all levels.
Hajj Ismael Mulindwa, the
Director of Basic Education told URN that he was green
about the happening although his office is among those which should be informed under the law. With this section invoked, the education authorities can
stop the proprietor from closing the school and forcefully put the administration under a statutory manager for a period of one year.
“If the Permanent Secretary… is satisfied that the reason
given by the school owner and the period during which the school is likely to
remain closed is contrary to the national interest, he or she may, after
giving the school owner an opportunity of being heard, direct that the school
be reopened under the management and control of a statutory manager appointed
by the Minister or District Education Officer…” the section reads.
According to the Education Act, the failure to inform the
education officials on the intended temporary closure of a school is an offence
and on conviction, one is liable to a fine not exceeding 200,000 Shillings or a
jail term not exceeding five months or both.
Dr Kedrace Turyagyenda, the Director of Education Standards, says that the current regulations and legal framework do not have
provisions guiding on indefinite closure of schools. Turyagyenda says the
regulation focused more on registration as the framers didn’t envision that a
school can indefinitely close.
After realizing that many schools close in a funny
way, affecting learners, parents and other stakeholders, the director notes
that they are currently preparing instruments that will guide how and when
private schools can close shop.
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The said regulations are part of the National Policy on
Private Provision of Education in Uganda whose aim is to enhance advancement in
the core principles and values of private provision of education and promote
social and financial accountability standards. The policy is also intended to
establish an effective system of regulating operations of private schools and
institutions, defining the relationship between private schools, state and
other key stakeholders.
However, in absence of guidelines from the ministry of education,
experts say that schools that are registered as companies should always follow
the Winding up process as required by company laws. A company may wind up for different
reasons amongst which are insolvency, upon satisfaction of its objects under
the Memorandum, but whatever the reasons, legal procedures need to be undertaken
to minimize the risks on the owners’ personal assets, estate, and credit.