By Denis Jjuuko

It is that time of the year when a lot of parents and guardians start having nightmares. The biggest challenge to most such people is school fees. Looking after a child who doesn’t require special care is relatively easy until the school term is about to commence especially for ‘middle income’ families and those below.

A relatively good school charges on average Shs500,000 per a term per a child. On average ‘middle income’ parents have three kids of their own and a relative or two they are supporting. That means that a parent/guardian must look for a minimum of Shs1.5m every three months. That money doesn’t usually include transport and other school requirements. But I will take Shs1.5m as average per a term per ‘middle income’ household.

Because most public schools are either dead or in intensive care or charge more than private ones, parents and guardians need to take their kids to schools where there is at least a chance of kids getting an education. However, there aren’t many families that are capable of saving Shs1.5m every three months. In order for people to meet this requirement, they resort to corruption and theft a lot of times. Those who don’t steal, who are the majority by the way, are always in debt in order to keep their kids in school.

However, there is a solution especially for those who are thinking about becoming parents. A lot of young people who are involved in some sort of income generating activities can save more money than most people, as they don’t have many responsibilities. So to avoid the school fees trap that their parents are in, future parents can do the following.

Imagine you are planning to conceive or make someone conceive a child. Before you conceive or she conceives, save at least Shs3m, which isn’t for paying hospital bills, throwing a baby shower and/or buying fancy baby clothes. Go look for land far from Kampala worth Shs3m and pay for it. Get your land title and deploy a neighbor to ensure that nobody does anything unauthorized on that land.

Look for money to pay for pre-primary education through your other means. When the child turns six or seven years and is ready to go for Primary One, sell the land. After six or seven years, the land bought at Shs3m will be about Shs15m. After you have sold, use Shs10m to pay fees. I am assuming that fees will be Shs700,000 on average per a term. Use Shs5m to buy another piece of land. The balance of Shs10m, can pay fees for 14 terms or five years. But don’t deposit all the Shs10m with the school at one go. Pay for one year at Shs2.1m and deposit the balance of Shs7.9m into a fixed bank account. At an annual interest of 10%, you will get a gross of Shs790,000 at the end of the year. It now means, that for the next year, you will only need to pay for two terms instead of three. Instead of looking for Shs2.1m, you will need Shs1.3m assuming you are paying Shs700,000 per a term. That would leave you with about Shs7m to deposit for the next year.

After five years, you can sell the land that you bought when your child was starting P1 so that you can pay for the next two years of primary education. The land will now be worth Shs25m. Sell it and buy land worth Shs10m. You will have a balance of Shs15m. At this stage, the child may be paying Shs800,000 per a term. That is Shs2.4m per year. Pay for a year and fix Shs12.6m in a bank. This means that you will now have Shs1.26m at the end of the year toward fees for the child’s primary seven year. With money made every year through the fixed deposit, you will have enough money to take the child through O-level education.

During the child’s Senior Four vacation, you can now sell the land that you had bought when the child was in P5 and you will get Shs50m. Assuming that the child now pays Shs1m per a term, you will need Shs6m to take him/her through A-level. University/tertiary education for three years, you may need about Shs2.5m per a semester (inclusive of accommodation and upkeep). The total bill for A-level and university education would then come to Shs21m. This means that you can now buy land worth Shs30m and use the same model for the next six years (two years for A-level, one year as S6 vacation, and three years at university).

The land, which was bought at Shs30m six years back will now be worth Shs150m by the child’s university graduation. Sell it and buy land worth Shs50m, give the child 10m to start a business, fix the other 40m with a bank with a purpose of supporting the child if he/she learns how the business works and needs more capital. Use the other 50m to reward yourself with a holiday or something like that. The land you have bought is now part of your retirement plan. If you used that model for every child, beginning of term won’t be a stressful period for you every few months. And if you have a child already, it is never too late to adopt this model.

The writer is a communication and visibility consultant.

*Photo of a new classroom block built with support from the World Bank.