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.
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.