Private Schools in Uganda: Taxing, Very Taxing
I appreciate the remarks made by the Ugandan bishop of Kasana-Luweero when he objected to the government’s repeal of tax-exemptions for private schools. But in his zeal to present private schools as an ally of government, Bishop Paul Ssemogerere may have fallen into a subtle trap.
Bishop Ssemogerere stated that “it is the government’s obligation to educate Ugandans, and private schools just come to assist it.” While it is true that private schools perform a vital social task, it is very doubtful that many of them conceive their role as assisting in what is essentially a government task. In this case, the propaganda effort obscures the deeper principles at stake.
Based on any significant understanding of the nature and purpose of government, we would be hard-pressed to argue that a government has an obligation to educate the people over which it rules. Ordinarily, this would be a dramatic violation of the principle of subsidiarity. Moreover, if there has been one thing established by the history of the modern world, it is the danger of placing government in control of education.
The better approach to the question is this: “Education is vital to the common good. Why would the government deliberately make it more difficult for people to open, operate and participate in schools to educate their children?”
This question is not limited to Uganda. Throughout the West, we have been awaiting a valid answer for a very long time. It is a broad question: Taxation is not the only way to interfere with education; but governmental “responsibility” for schools almost always proves very taxing to those who really do want to educate.
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