Everything Wrong with UPE and How to Solve It
On 8th June 2016, the Presidential designate, Hon. Matia Kasaija, Buyanja County MP, presented the country’s budget for FY2016/17, totalling to UGX 26.3tn with an allocation of UGX 2.745tn (10.44%) to education sector from the last year’s UGX 2.3tn (11.08%). Taking the third biggest allocation, after Interest Payment due and Works and Transport. Although the sector shares of the national resource envelope increased in nominal terms UGX 445bn, it reduced in absolute terms by 0.64%.
The sector nominal increment is on account of increase in wage, non-wage, domestic and donor development funding (due to the depreciated shillings against the dollar). For the last five years, the sector budget has realised a nominal increase of UGX 1.13tn from UGX 1.592tn in FY2012/13 to UGX 2.745 in FY2016/17, still the sector share in absolute terms has been reducing from 14.4% to 10.44%.
Despite the increase in the sector budget, it still remains non-aligned to the National Development Plan(NDP) II which envisioned UGX 3.92tn in FY2016/17, indicating a funding gap of UGX 1.18tn. The allocation doesn’t also meet the country’s international obligations of allocating 20% of its national resource envelope to education sector. This inadequate funding to the sector is witnessed by a number of underfunded and unfunded priorities amounting to UGX 275.19bn, which includes unfulfilled Presidential pledges of Ugx 84.86bn, dating way back in FY 2008/09.
The biggest share of the sector budget has been and still remains basic education especially primary education with more than UGX 1tn in FY2016/17. Since commencement of Universal Primary Education(UPE), increase in enrollment has been realized from Ugx 3.1m to Ugx 8.5m in 1997 and 2013 respectively. This massive enrollment has increased pressure on the existing inadequate infrastructure and human resource to deliver quality education as the increase is not matched with attendant budgetary provisions. This is on account of reduction of primary education as a percentage of total public expenditure from 69.3% in 2002 to 58%, where it has stagnated since 2008.
This explains the number of challenges UPE is facing. For stance, according to the Ministerial Policy Statement for the Education Sector for FY2016/17, though the survival rate from Primary 1 to 7 has gradually improved, out of the 10 students enrolled in UPE, only 3 of them survive till primary 7. The quality of education in UPE also remains something not to smile about. Proficiency rate at primary six level continue reducing to 39.4% and 38.3% from 45.2% and 40.8% in 2012 for numeracy and literacy respectively.
I suppose it is on this background, that one of the planned activities in this FY2016/17, is to review UPE. Right from its inception, the program was and still remains good for the poor, who can’t afford paying high school fees for their children. But the biggest mistake that government made was to make it appear to be completely free of charge which is not, because parents should provide, uniforms, stationery for the children. Though many of them claim they cannot afford on account of high poverty levels, as 6.7m Ugandans are poor. The manner of promoting pupils despite their performance should also be explained.
The School Facilitations Grant (Funds used to construct classrooms and latrines) has stagnated at UGX 54.2bn since FY2013/14. The UGX 10,000 allocated to each pupil annually is also inadequate to facilitate provision of food, scholastic materials and sanitary towels which should be a matter of right for our girl children.
Therefore, government should ensure that the allocations to the education sector aligns to the NDP II, a plan which is its own creation. The review of UPE should consider introducing cost-sharing in UPE for the scholastic materials, uniforms, sanitary towels and food. A poor-friendly universal fees policy should be adopted such that these basic necessities are received by pupils at schools. This will awaken the parents’ responsibility and supervision of their children to improve performance and reduce school dropout rates.
The School Management Committees and Foundation Bodies also ought to be given more powers to manage their schools. Often times, their decisions on mandatory provision of food and these necessities by parents for their children have been overturned by Residential District Commissioners on account of complete free education provided by Government in UPE schools.