Uganda: Schools defy govt on ‘illegal’ school interview fees

Uganda: Schools defy govt on 'illegal' school interview fees
Pupils of Hormisdallen. The school charges Shs 120,000 for the interviews

Schools charging for interviews before admitting students are doing so outside the law and will be reprimanded, Ministry of Education has warned.

Ministry of Education permanent secretary Alex Kakooza says the interview fees are illegal and should not be paid for.

“Interviews are free and parents should not pay for them. In both government and private schools interviews should be free and not be paid for. Why are parents paying for interviews yet they also have to pay school fees?,” he asked.

According to a circular that was sent to schools by the Ministry of Education last month, all cash and non-cash requirements like interview charges outside the approved school fees are prohibited.

Kakooza urged all parents to be on the lookout for what he called illegal school charges and to inform the ministry. The ministry also scrapped primary one interviews in all schools.

But it seems the schools have defied the ministry’s directive as parents are increasingly crying foul over exorbitant fees that schools ask them to pay before their children are allowed to sit for interviews.

With the school year coming to an end, some parents are eager to change their children’s schools before the start of the new school year. Both private and public primary schools are asking parents to pay interview fees for children that range between Shs 10,000 and Shs 150,000.

At some schools, the interviews have attracted hundreds of pupils only for the schools to select a handful of them. At East Kololo primary school, parents are asked to pay Shs 10,000 to cater for the cost of running the interviews. At Hormisdallen, parents pay Shs 120,000 for the interviews.

Cephas Kamya, the head teacher at Hormisdallen primary school located in Kamwokya says the money is necessary to enable the school cater for interview costs. So far the school has received more than 50 pupils during their ongoing interview process.

“Interviews are written on paper and we need to facilitate the teachers who actually take their time to supervise and mark the done papers. So, we ask parents for that money to cater for the interview stationary and application fees for new students,” he says.

Parents that URN spoke to say that the interview charges are being used by schools to get money from unsuspecting parents who want their children to go to better schools. Gladys Namuli, a parent says that schools these days are charging all sorts of money to make a living.

“Schools charge us for everything from doing interviews to sitting exams and even providing drinking water for our children. I was recently asked to pay fees for my son to do an interview at St. Savio and I think it is unfair. If schools cannot run interviews without fees, then they should not conduct them,” said Namuli.

Francis Kabagambe, a father of two says schools are reaping off parents by making them pay for interviews and yet deny their children vacancies after. Henry Ntende, another parent says that schools attract many interviewees and yet only choose a handful of pupils at the end of the process.

“The schools are not being honest enough to first tell us that we need these number of students. So they are making parents to pay for applications or interview fees and then after since there are so many kids who sit for these interviews, they only take a few numbers. I think this is something that has to be looked into as soon as possible because this is not a transparent process,” Ntende said.

Ntende says that while he understands the necessity for schools to charge some money for interviews, schools are going overboard with the practice.