The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Jacob Oulanyah has instructed the Parliamentary Committee on Education to examine the exercise involving the closure of schools by the Ministry of Education.
The Deputy Speaker made the ruling on the matter following complaints raised by Members of Parliament on the manner in which the Ministry of Education conducted itself in the closure of schools around the country, this was during a plenary sitting, today, Tuesday 14th March, 2017.
MPs said that it was unjustifiable for the Ministry to concentrate on closing private schools and leave ill-equipped public schools with poor teacher attendance in operation.
Hon. Medard Lubega Sseggona (Busiro East) said that the private schools that were being closed were not given an opportunity to get a fair hearing.
“The old schools we went to are dilapidated with no teachers; yet the private schools you are closing have blackboards, desks and all other equipment that public schools do not. To make matters worse, you are going ahead with this exercise without installing a tribunal to hear appeals of these schools that are being closed as per the statutory requirements,” Sseggona said .
Hon. Jackson Kafuuzi (Kyaka South) added that the private schools have been set up in most of these places to address the lack of public schools.
“The government has failed to uphold its policy to have a school in every sub-county. The response of the people was to set up private schools to cover these gaps. However, these are the schools the government is closing under the claim that they lack the basic requirements,” Kafuuzi said.
The Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Winnie Kiiza (Kasese) wandered whether the government had taken the initiative to find out why the parents opt out of the government schools in preference for private schools, before proceeding with the closure.
The Minister of State for Higher Education, Hon. John Chrysestom Muyingo (Bamunanika County), responded saying that the process was indiscriminate to both public and private schools.
“We are closing all the schools that do not meet the minimum basic standards including government schools. We sent out a communication to all Local Governments prior to the exercise that we were going to close schools without a license to operate; those that lacked teachers and the necessary equipment,” Muyingo said.
He added that the law was clear; and that no school to open without a license.
The Deputy Speaker ruled that the Committee on Education examines the issue and returns to the floor of the House within two to three weeks with a report.
“Let us refer this matter to the Committee. There, the minister will be able to entirely explain the issue which will look into the matter. All those who are affected, especially school owners will be addressed,” Oulanyah said.
The matter came up during the Ministerial Statement on the General Concern Over Closure of Schools; presented by Hon. Muyingo as a response to issues raised during the Prime Minister’s Question Time last week.