LYANTONDE. At least 1,182 pupils and students are still stranded at home, a week after authorities in Mubende District shut down their schools, Daily Monitor has established.
Last week, eight schools in Kitenga Sub-county were closed and five proprietors arrested after they were found operating the institutions below the required minimum standards.
A total of 1,102 affected pupils were attending seven primary schools while 80 students were enrolled in a secondary school.
The affected schools included; Central Parents Primary School which had an enrolment of 152, God’s Care Nursery and Primary School (80), London Gate Children Academy (84), Gogonya Primary School (180), St Stephen’s Church of Uganda Junior School (113), Omega Primary School (250), Samaritan Heart Junior School (243) and Clever Land Secondary School (80).
The Mubende deputy education officer, Mr Kassim Balinda, said the closed schools lacked trained teachers, permanent buildings for boarding section and were not adhering to the official curriculum.
Some of the affected parents accused the district authorities of shutting down the schools a month into the school term when they had already paid fees.
“I could have looked for another school where to take my son, but I had already paid fees for this term, if they [district authorities] knew that the schools don’t meet the required standards, they shouldn’t have allowed them to reopen this term,” Mr Lutalo Sewakiryanga, a parent, said during an interview on Wednesday.
However, Mr Balinda said the school proprietors had been warned against opening the schools this term, but they didn’t take heed.
“The law [the Education Act 2008] is very clear on schools which are operating illegally. The affected school administrators must comply with closure notice and their schools cannot reopen unless they first get written permission from the permanent secretary of the Education ministry, chief administrative officer or the clerk,” he said.
Mr Andrew Muteesa, a parent, said he cannot enrol his son in the nearest government school which is five kilometres away from home, saying the distance is too long.
“Let him [son] stay home until I get money to take him to a boarding school,” he said.
The Resident District Commissioner, Ms Mary Baguma Nyakwera, said the parents of the affected pupils have since last week been advised to enrol their children in other schools so that they can continue with studies.
“Some parents argue that those schools taught their children very well, which is not true. For sure, those schools were instead killing the foundation of their children,” she said.
She said the crackdown on illegal schools is going to continue across the district and all culprits will be arrested and prosecuted.
Mr Arnold Ampiire, the head teacher of London Gate Children Academy, pleaded with the district officials to give them more time to put in place what is required.
In April last year, at least 13 school proprietors and teachers in Mubende District were charged with operating illegal private schools.
The suspects, who appeared before Mubende Chief Magistrate William Robbs Komakech, were charged with establishing unregistered primary schools contrary to Section 40(c) of the Education Act 2008.
Three pleaded guilty to the offence and were asked to pay a Shs800,000 fine to be released. However, the rest, who pleaded not guilty, were remanded to Kaweeri prison.
The closure of illegal schools, which started in 2016, has seen several shut down across the country. This followed a directive by the Ministry of Education Permanent Secretary, Mr Alex Kakooza, to district education officials countrywide in November 2016 asking them to ensure that all unlicensed schools comply.
According to Ministry of Education records, at least 1,300 schools do not meet the minimum education standards and have to remain closed until they comply. The education basic requirements and minimum education standards require every school to be fully registered and with trained teachers.
Section 40(c ) of the Education Act, 2008, stipulates that any person, who establishes or maintains a school, which is not classified and registered, commits an offence and is liable on first conviction to a fine not exceeding 20 currency points and on second or subsequent conviction, to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months. Each currency point is equivalent to Shs20,000.