By Insight Post Uganda
Sylvia Okite, the Director and Headteacher of Ferry Junior School in Mukono Municipality, is facing an attack for the controversial detention of eight primary seven leavers.
The reason she gives for their detention is the failure to complete outstanding school fees. This started immediately after the completion of the Primary Living Examinations set by the Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB) on Thursday.
The school reportedly confined the eight students to a single room, a move seen as an attempt to pressure their parents into settling fee arrears.
The news of this extreme measure gained widespread attention when one parent, Joseph Kasirye, attempted to clear part of the outstanding balance for his daughter. Instead of securing her release, he found himself detained alongside his child.
Kasirye revealed the financial strain imposed by the school stating that there are arrears of about UGX1.5 million. He was forced to surrender his motorcycle card as security after the school threatened to deny his daughter a chance to write her final papers.
“To my surprise, the school has detained my daughter up to now. Upon entering the school to demand her release, I was, instead, also put under detention,” he recounts.
He further disclosed that the school coerced him into signing a commitment to pay Shillings 2.5 million, an additional one million for failing to meet the initial payment deadline.
However, Florence Nabbanja, Kasirye’s wife, reported the incident to Wantoni Police Station, but officers there declined to open a case. Other affected parents shared similar experiences, prompting them to approach Mukono Police Division to voice their grievances.
Dorcus Muwanga, another parent, highlighted the dire conditions her daughter endured during detention. “My daughter returned home very sick, an indicator that the school denied them food for the days of detention. Her body was producing an unusual odour, indicating that bathing at the detention was also challenging.”
Mukono Division Police Commander, Edirisa Kyeyune, has stepped in, summoning the school director to record a statement regarding the alleged illegal detention of minors.
He stated that children, upon completing their Primary Leaving Examinations, should be released to their parents, and detaining them under these circumstances is considered criminal.
Kyeyune directed the school management to surrender all detained children to the police for reunification with their parents. Failure to comply may result in legal action or a potential invasion of the school by concerned parents.
In response, Sylvia Okite, seemingly unmoved by the warning, defended the school’s actions, asserting that detaining children compels parents to fulfil their financial obligations.
She dismissed complaints as attempts to tarnish the school’s reputation, asserting that they are well-versed in the school system. The unfolding investigation will determine the legality of the school’s actions and the consequences it may face for such a controversial decision.
The situation raises ethical and legal concerns, as it involves minors and adults being confined due to financial matters. It suggests a potential violation of the student’s rights to education and the parents’ rights as legal guardians.
In addition, it stresses the severity of the school’s actions in enforcing fee payment and the impact it has on families.
Early this month, the state minister for Higher Education- John Chrysostom Muyingo warned school administrators and proprietors against preventing candidates with unpaid fees from taking their final examinations.
‘It is unacceptable,” he said adding that all registered candidates must be granted the opportunity to sit for their exams, irrespective of any outstanding fee arrears.
However, child rights activists argue that minors argue that confining individuals restricts their freedom of movement, which is a fundamental human right.
Both students and parents have the right to move freely, and their detention for financial reasons may be viewed as an infringement on this right.