Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Basics: School Fees

As I was writing up business descriptions this morning, I was reminded of the importance of school fees in the lives of people here. I don’t think I’ve mentioned them before, and certainly not in any serious way.

There is no such thing as free education here, anywhere. It does not matter how poor you are or what school you go to, everyone pays school fees. And if you don’t have school fees, your children do not get an education. Period.

Without exception, every borrower I’ve talked to has mentioned school fees as a primary reason to need a loan, to need a profitable business. Even for those who don’t have children themselves, money is needed to pay school fees for younger brothers or sisters, or nieces and nephews, or somebody.

I went to a neighborhood restaurant for lunch the other day. I was the only one there, and my server, a young man maybe out of his teens, wrote a note for me explaining how he had had to drop out of school and is trying to get money together for school fees so he could complete his education.

The story isn’t so great for teachers either. Yesterday, I interviewed two women applying for loans. Both of them had been teachers. Both of them are now running a school canteen because that was more profitable than teaching. Not only is the pay very low, but it was often late, one told me. In a cash economy, late pay will get you nothing because there is no such thing as credit.

I don’t know how I would do it, but if I were setting up a program to help people in Uganda, it would have something to do with paying school fees.


qoe said...

What you describe is the case in a great many countries. And the plight of the teachers, well, that is nothing of a surprise. But it does bring up a bit of ire that so many buzzwords are used in our own political system JUST to garner votes--all things having to do with children, their health and their education--but then nothing real is EVER done once these plastic politicians are elected. (This is across the board, you understand; not just Republicans, but all the liberals, who are so glib about entitlements, as well. Might as well have a single party system. Just check the records of all these politicos, and they will tell you a tale of disgrace. In the state of California, for example, $130 millions were given toward stem cell research, but money is being cut from the public school system. Does that make sense? Pay the private corporate interests and starve the pubic programs.) Mothers and their children everywhere are left to fend for themselves. I have met couples from Indonesia that work on cruise ships for years at a time, while the grandparents raise the children at home. Free market free for all big money outfits, and we little people are all enslaved. Let us pray and act so that the MDGs can make positive impact in these areas.

Leila said...

Laura - Children of Grace - based out of Jinja Uganda already has a program to pay school fees. Each child is sponsored by someone here in the States. The program was started by MaryAnn McCoy from Danville Pres.