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Education committee starts processing UNEB bill

State minister for higher education (R) and UNEB Executive Secretary Dan Odongo appearing before the education committee

Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT | Legislators on the Education committee have called for sanctions against schools that charge extra fees while registering candidates for national exams. The MPs made the proposal as the committee embarked on scrutinizing  the Uganda National Examinations Board Amendment Bill 2020 on Tuesday.

The committee chaired by the Pallisa County MP Jacob Opolot met with the State Minister in Charge of Higher Education, John Chrysostom Muyingo who officially presented the bill following its presentation in parliament by the State Minister for Primary Education, Rosemary Sseninde last month.

Muyingo appeared together with the UNEB Executive Secretary, Dan Odongo and other Education ministry officials to expound on the provisions in the bill. The bill seeks to repeal the UNEB act Cap 137, which according to the minister has a number of defects and gaps resulting from a number of reforms and socio economic changes that have affected the operations of the examinations board and implementation of the act. 

One of those defects according to the ministry is that the penalties in the Act are weak and therefore need enhancement to make them more meaningful and deterrent to match the objectives of the regulatory framework. 

The remedies prescribed by the bill are stringent penalties for anyone convicted of exam malpractice, being in possession of examination material and impersonation among other offences with the penalties ranging from fines not exceeding 1000 currency points (Shillings 20m) to 2000 currency points (Shillings 40m) or a jail term not exceeding ten years or both.

MPs however took particular interest in Sections 32 and 33 of the bill, which create the offences of misappropriation of examination registration fees and fees outside what is provided for by UNEB. The penalties upon conviction also call for a fine not exceeding 2000 currency points (Shillings 40m) or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 10 years or both. 

Workers MP, Margaret Rwabushaija and Luuka South MP, Stephen Kisa argued that much as the offences had been stipulated in the act and penalties stated for persons who misappropriate registration fees or charge illegal fees, UNEB should take action against private schools that take advantage of the registration process to charge extra fees from candidates. 

Rwabushaija noted that some of the schools are untouchable and that something should be done about these extra charges.

Kisa argued that the registration fees should be removed all together and the cost borne by government as is the case for UPE and USE students, saying this would solve the problem of schools over charging candidates during the registration process. 

Upper Madi county MP, Isaac Etuka called for a mechanism where parents pay the fees directly to UNEB.

Odongo stated that the law will cater for those who charge illegal fees under the guise of UNEB registration fees. He however, argued that schools are free to stipulate extra charges alongside the official UNEB fees as agreed by management or the Parent Teacher Associations of the respective schools to cater for additional costs of holding examinations at the school. 

Among the other defects noted by the minister in the current law is that the current Board of UNEB is bloated, which contravenes the principles of good governance and puts a huge financial burden on the budget of the Examinations body.   Among the remedies stipulated in the bill is the downsizing of the Board from its current size of thirty members to match the principles of good governance by removing non-existent positions that were affected partly by the restructuring of Government ministries, Departments and Agencies in 1998.

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