Public primary schools have been overwhelmed by the number of pupils seeking admission. Schools reopened on Monday after nearly 22 months of closure as part of the COVID-19 containment measures.
As schools reopened countrywide on Monday, managers of public schools in different districts, said they were overwhelmed by the number of pupils and parents seeking admission. In Kampala, many headteachers in public schools under the Kampala Capital City Authority-KCCA said the number of new entrants is overwhelming.
Jane Kyakuwa, the headteacher of Kitante Primary School, said that they had stopped admitting learners because they are filled up to capacity. “We no longer have space but parents do not want to hear that. They come and insist and tell you that they have nowhere else to take their children. But we have no space and can only send them to other neighbouring schools,” she said.
Even as Kyakuwa spoke to URN, parents kept flocking her office seeking admission for their children. Prior to the lockdown, Kitante Primary School had an enrollment of 3500 learners. However, Kaykuwa says that this number has increased by more than 200 pupils. Other public schools like Buganda Road and Nakaseero Primary School also had similar scenarios.
At St Martin’s Primary School Mulago, the headteacher told URN they have over 300 new entrants. Richard Abura, the deputy headteacher in charge of Academics at Nakaseero Primary, says that they have many new entrants in almost all the classes.
In Entebbe Municipality, public schools such as Chadwick Namate Primary School received half as many new entrants as old learners on Monday. According to administrators at the schools, 100 out of the 200 learners who reported on Monday were new entrants.
Some of the parents that URN spoke to intimated that they transferred their children due to astronomical fees and requirements asked for in private schools.
“At Chadwick Namate Primary School, I have paid less than Shillings 150,000 for everything because it is charging Shillings 93,500 for fees, Shillings 35,000 for school uniforms, and the requirements like toilet paper and brooms cost less than Shillings 20,000,” a parent said.
Shakira Nakayenze, a mother of four, says that she transferred her three children from a private school to Entebbe Changsha Model Primary School due to financial constraints.
The same situation was reported in other districts such as Soroti where public schools are often shunned for being of low quality. At Kichinjaji Primary School in Soroti City East Division, 20 out of the 28 new entrants who registered on Monday are from private schools.
Amina Nanduttu sought admission for five children to Kinchinjaji. She says that one of the private schools where her eldest daughter was in 2020 closed during the pandemic.
“I have been here since morning but only children in lower primary school have been admitted. For this one (primary seven pupil), they want her report card but the school where she was closed. It is the reason I want all my children to join government-aided schools”, she said.
Akwap Esther Apeduno, the Head Teacher of Kichinjaji primary school, says that most of the parents seeking admission from private schools say that they don’t have money to continue paying fees there.
While the number of learners in public schools is on the rise, this raises the question of the availability of infrastructure such as desks and classroom space to accommodate them.