The Ugandan Education Sector: are we advancing or burying it?
Uganda’s education sector is always under scrutiny and never far away from controversy and ridicule from the general public. Few will argue, but many will concur that even when the country is registering tremendous growth in quality of education, the number of schools and institutions and access to education, we still have a long way before we can brag about the education system. The shortfalls in education are aligned to access it by many people especially those in rural areas. It is not a myth that many rural areas do not have enough schools to match the people living there. The quality of education leaves a great lot to be desired, most facilities in the few schools are in a sorry state. Children still study under trees after walking countless miles to get to school, the ratio of teacher to students is appalling and worse still, these teachers are paid peanuts.
With a whole lot needed for the education sector to blossom, is it thus surprising that the education sector’s share of the national budget has been reducing from 14.6 per cent since FY 2012/2013. The current 11.4% allocation from the National Budget to the sector is expected to be cut by 0.4% to 11%. The cut is estimated to lower the Education sector budget by up to 80 billion shillings. This is definitely going to affect not just the quality of education but will definitely affect the education service delivery in general. For example, the Ministry has always attributed gaps in close inspection and monitoring of schools which is paramount if access to quality education is to be realized to low funding and facilitation capacity.
It’s paradoxical that the budget for education keeps reducing every FY yet the challenges that are facing the sector are escalating. The Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga after a meeting with local leaders from the Sebei region particularly Kween district to set strategies of fighting FGM, informed the house about the plight of the people in this region. She reported to the house that some constituencies in Kween district do not have a single primary or secondary school and this compels young girls to rush into marriage. She further directed the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Ministry of Education to create an intervention for the people of these constituencies.
Evidently, the Ministry of Education is overwhelmed with the challenges it’s facing and the fact that their budget being cut does not help to ease the problem at hand. The Education sector budget for FY2019/2020 proposes recruitment of 22,000 primary teachers. This would require the ministry up to 132 billion shillings which have still not been funded by the budget. The problems in the education sector are not going away anytime soon, as part of growth, these challenges are supposed to be a learning benchmark.
It is increasingly becoming difficult for these challenges to be tackled if the funding is being reduced. How is the sector supposed to recruit more teachers if the budget is being cut? How is the Ministry supposed to increase school inspectors and facilitate them do their work? How can the UPE program that seeks to provide education for every Ugandan child supposed to be improved if the sector’s pockets are being frustrated? There are a million questions I can ask and many if not all, will first, draw to a solution of more funding. The government is shooting itself in the effort if it hopes to advance education while cutting the sector’s budget at the same time.