Headteachers in government-aided learning institutions are up in arms over the decision by the Ministry of Finance asking them to return funds they had received for the second term in the fourth quarter of the 2019/2020 financial year.
On July 22, Keith Muhakanizi, the Permanent Secretary and Secretary to the Treasury, Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, issued a circular requesting accounting officers and local governments to ensure that all schools return the capitation grant, intact, considering that the schools did not open for the second term.
“Submit the documentation confirming the remittance of funds to the consolidated fund in the Bank of Uganda for all the schools under your votes to this ministry for attention of director budget within two weeks, in any case, not later than 6th August 2020,” the letter reads in part.
The academic year was prematurely cut short on March 18, 2020, as a precautionary measure to forestall the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). At the time of the closure, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni observed that it was paramount to protect the more than 15 million learners enrolled in schools at different education levels.
However, headteachers note that the suspension of physical teaching didn’t mean that the learning had indefinitely closed. Therefore, they protest the issued circular noting that part of the said money was already spent on different aspects as per their budgets. According to them, the permanent secretary seems to be ignorant of how schools work.
Martin Okiria Obore, the national chairman of the Association of Secondary School Headteachers of Uganda, says when the president stopped students from attending school, it didn’t mean that schools closed.
Obore shares that the fund given to them are used for several activities some of which remained functioning even during the lockdown which means that the said funds cannot be intact at this moment.
The capitation grants are computed based on school enrollment. The government provides Shillings 10,000 for each pupil under the Universal Primary Education – UPE. Those under Universal Secondary Education are allocated Shillings 41,000 and 85,000 for O and A level respectively in addition to a block grant of shillings 100,000 per term.
According to the Capitation Grants expenditure guidelines, 50 percent of the grant is supposed to be used on instructional materials; 30 percent on co-curricular activities,15 percent spent on school management, maintenance, payment for utilities such as water and electricity, whereas 5 percent on school administration. The funds are released every quarter in any given financial year.
Filbert Baguma, the secretary-general of Uganda National Teachers’ Association also finds the order ambiguous. He notes that the ministry might have forgotten that the school budgets run for a year and at times schools get supplies on credit and payback when the release is made.
Baguma says the matter needs urgent attention and discussion between the education ministry and their finance counterparts.
The development comes at a time when the ministry of finance has already taken a decision suspending funding to government-aided learning institutions until they reopen. The decision has also been challenged.
This reporter has learned that on Friday, the education institution leaders under their several umbrellas met with authorities at the Ministry of Education to see how schools can be financed to run several activities even during the lockdown. Several people who attended the meeting note that they had agreed with the ministry of finance to present their complaints in writing.