In­crease in the UPE cap­i­ta­tion grant will still not cover food and san­i­tary tow­els for girls

By: MUSA MU­GOYA

In ref­er­ence to the Na­tional Bud­get Frame­work and Min­is­te­r­ial Pol­icy State­ment for the Min­istry Of Ed­u­ca­tion, Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy & Sports FY2015/​2016 which are both un­der­go­ing scrutiny in the Par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee on ed­u­ca­tion and sports, it seems the pupils, teach­ers & head teach­ers and other stake hold­ers in the Uni­ver­sal Pri­mary Ed­u­ca­tion (UPE) have some­thing to smile about. This is due to the in­dica­tives in the in­crease of the cap­i­ta­tion grant. An ad­di­tional Ugx 18.3bn has been al­lo­cated to fa­cil­i­tate the in­cre­ment of the unit cost per pupil in UPE from Ugx 7,000 to 10,000 to re-pri­or­i­tize its out­puts.

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Pupils under UPE continue to go school for free but with no food & sanitary towels for the girls. how do we solve this? PhotoCredit: SMSMedia

This comes as a par­tial a re­sponse to the loud voices of the var­i­ous civil so­ci­ety or­ga­ni­za­tions and a sec­tion of mem­bers of par­lia­ment who have been push­ing gov­ern­ment to con­sider in­creas­ing the school fa­cil­i­ties grant sent to UPE schools. The in­cre­ment would en­able them meet the ba­sic school fa­cil­i­ties and also pro­vide food to all pupils and san­i­tary tow­els to the girl child.

At the height of re­duc­tions in al­lo­ca­tion in cap­i­ta­tion grant in the pre­ced­ing fi­nan­cial year from Ugx 7,560 to Ugx 6,800 per pupil per year , var­i­ous civil so­ci­ety or­ga­ni­za­tions launched ad­vo­cacy at­tacks against this ret­ro­gres­sive mea­sure. For in­stance the Black Mon­day cam­paign launched “No Lunch Un­til Our Chil­dren Have Lunch” cam­paign. While the Ini­tia­tive for So­cial and Eco­nomic Rights (ISER) to­gether with Hon. Ssewungu Gon­zaga Joseph, Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment Kalungu County West, filed a civil suit in the Uganda High Court over what they re­garded to be an ad­verse ef­fect on the right to ed­u­ca­tion as guar­an­teed un­der Ar­ti­cle 30 of the Uganda Con­sti­tu­tion, the In­ter­na­tional Covenant of Eco­nomic, So­cial and Cul­tural Rights and the African Char­ter on Hu­man and Peo­ples Rights to which Uganda is a state party.  Many other stake­hold­ers raised their voices against the de­crease of the fi­nan­cial al­lo­ca­tion to an al­ready dwin­dling and want­ing ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor.

Al­though the in­cre­ment points a pro­gres­sive mea­sure, it is still in­suf­fi­cient to cater for the per­ti­nent ne­ces­si­ties, like feed­ing of pupils as well pro­vi­sion of san­i­tary tow­els to the girl chil­dren yet re­search con­sid­ers them as one of the car­di­nal fac­tors re­spon­si­ble for the poor per­for­mance and high dropout rates.

In­ter­est­ing to note, while ap­pear­ing be­fore the Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee on Ed­u­ca­tion and Sports, Hon Jesca Alupo, the Se­nior Min­is­ter for Ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor in­formed the com­mit­tee that cab­i­net is con­sid­er­ing guide­lines on how par­ents should feed their chil­dren in schools be­cause the re­spon­si­bil­ity to feed these pupils falls onto them as spelt out in the Ed­u­ca­tion Act. An idea which was sec­onded by a sec­tion of the com­mit­tee mem­bers pre­sent.

Im­por­tant to note is that the in­crease is not a guar­an­tee for im­proved ser­vice de­liv­ery in these schools. A case in point, when re­ceiv­ing the re­port of the Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mit­tee on the Na­tional Bud­get Frame­work Pa­per for the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor, the Chair­per­son of the Bud­get Com­mit­tee (Hon. Amos Lu­golobi –In­ten­jeru County North) noted that the in­cre­ment of the grant is good but its ef­fi­cient and ef­fec­tive use re­mains a mat­ter for de­bate. He gave an ex­am­ple of his con­stituency where the cap­i­ta­tion grants are not serv­ing their pur­pose of buy­ing chalk, books and pens for teach­ers to draw their schemes of work but only ends be­tween the head teach­ers and the Dis­trict Ed­u­ca­tion Of­fi­cer.  In cases where the head teacher is un­co­op­er­a­tive he or she is trans­ferred. And also tak­ing into ac­count the in­fla­tion rate, the fig­ure could be of less sig­nif­i­cance.

It should be re­mem­bered that when UPE pro­gramme was in­tro­duced in 1997, it gave hope to many poor, vul­ner­a­ble and mar­gin­al­ized peo­ple who had been locked out of Ugan­da’s ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem due to fi­nan­cial con­straints and in­abil­i­ties, but now it has be­come a night­mare. Chil­dren are in school, but they are not learn­ing be­cause of hunger; they do not have enough teach­ers; where there teach­ers, they are not teach­ing be­cause of the de-mo­ti­va­tion due to poor pay, many of them spend most of their time in gar­dens and op­er­at­ing bod­abo­das to sup­ple­ment on the lit­tle they get.

Con­se­quently, poor per­for­mance year af­ter year most es­pe­cially in the east­ern and north­ern parts of the coun­try has been the or­der of the day. As Hon. Fox Odio, West Bu­dama County North leg­is­la­tor puts it: “you can make an in­tel­li­gent guess and you will be vin­di­cated that North & East will per­form poorly”. On that note he ad­vised the com­mit­tee on ed­u­ca­tion to con­sider mak­ing a rec­om­men­da­tion com­pelling gov­ern­ment to hand over schools in north and east­ern Uganda to foun­da­tion bod­ies be­cause it has failed to pro­vide qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion and af­ter all the land on which most of these schools sit be­long to churches and mosques while Hon Wa­makuyu Mudimi Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment for Bu­lam­bu­lui County, is propos­ing for cost-shar­ing.
Un­less the sta­tus quo is chal­lenged by ini­ti­at­ing feed­ing of chil­dren & pro­vi­sion of san­i­tary tow­els, con­struc­tion of more class­rooms & san­i­tary fa­cil­i­ties to­gether with mo­ti­va­tion of teach­ers. It may re­main a dream for the coun­try’s ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem to meet the core stan­dards of ed­u­ca­tion, that is; ac­ces­si­bil­ity, avail­abil­ity, ac­cept­abil­ity and adapt­abil­ity as spelt out in the In­ter­na­tional covenant on Eco­nomic So­cial and Cul­tural Rights of 1966 to which the state is party.