The Ugan­dan Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­tor: are we ad­vanc­ing or bury­ing it?

By: AL­LAN KI­NANI

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.