Uganda: Payment Platforms Anchor Recovery On Schools’ Reopening

By Malcolm Musiime

The reopening of schools would deliver improvements in school fees transactions this year, players within payments ecosystem have said.

The closure of schools triggered by Covid-19 left payments platforms unutilized thus leading to a massive drop in revenues.

Covid-19’s disturbing effect is well exposed through the School Pay platform, which is used by 15 banks and more than 5,000 schools.

“In 2019, we collected Shs700b. In the first quarter of 2020, we had only collected about Shs200b. Post [lockdown], we have collected about Shs70b,” Mr Osbert Muganga, the School Pay general manager, said.

About 90 per cent of transactions are effected through mobile phones while banks take about 10 per cent.

Before Covid-19, about three million parents paid school fees through School Pay.

However, the number was flat but only slightly recovered in October last year after government reopened schools for only candidate classes.

According to Mr Muganga, payments rose from almost zero to approximately 185,000 parents.

Despite the continued closure of schools, mobile based payment platforms, have pinned their recovery on how government decides, amid claims that there has been discussions in regard to reopening of non-candidate classes.

“The candidate classes have started school but the Internet shutdown brought the numbers down. Out of the average payments we were expecting, about 40,000 had paid and we anticipate with the Internet re-installed, the numbers could shoot up. Payments come in three cycles with 50 per cent payments at the beginning of the term, 35 per cent mid-way and 15 per cent at the end. In comparison to that 50 per cent, only 20 per cent was expected to be paid between now and that shutdown,” Muganga explains.

School pay platforms partner with especially telecoms to leverage on their reach to tap into new territories.

Ms Jauhara Nakibule, an Airtel account manager, said they had patterned with different banks around the country to ease back to school hustle as well as helping parents to avoid standing in long queues. “Covid-19 has been a huge challenge. We are only seeing students picking up, at least with candidates now back to school, we expect things could get even better,” she said.

With the virus still looming, it remains uncertain when government will open up the rest of the education sector.

For now, what is known is that the Ministry of Education has concluded inspection of schools and is looking into opening up the entire sector in phases.


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