Every­thing Wrong with UPE and How to Solve It

By: MUSA MU­GOYA

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.