People & Power
‘Uneb problems more than Bukenya, Mandy’
Posted Sunday, May 4 2014 at 01:00
The inside story. Since the appointment of Fagil Mandy as Uneb chairman in 2012, a dispute arose after he attempted to replace Mathew Bukenya whose contract as the exam body’s executive secretary had ended. However, President Museveni last week extended Bukenya’s contract, a thing Mandy did not agree with and resigned. Sunday Monitor’s Charles Mwanguhya Mpagi & Patience Ahimbisibwe talked to former Uneb secretary David Livingstone Ongom.
A series of incidents that last week culminated in the deployment of police at the headquarters of the Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb) have shoved the examinations body back into news headlines.
At the centre are two men whose association with education in the country has coated applause as well as criticism in equal measure.
Fagil Mandy who was until last week chairman of the Uneb board was once acting commissioner for inspectorate at the Ministry of Education, a job he left with a trail of acclaims several years ago as well as complaints. His appointment to head the Uneb board in July 2012 was welcomed externally but brought tension internally as squabbles rocked the examination body until now.
On the other hand is Mathew Bukenya who by 1995 had retired from public service after years working in the finance section in Uneb as an accountant. Following the exit of Mr David Livingstone Ongom, Cyprian Cele was appointed the acting executive secretary. But Bukenya was recalled from retirement to take up the executive secretary and was confirmed in 1997, a position he has held since.
But a deeper story lies behind the current squabbles at Uneb.
At the time of Ongom’s exit, Uneb was reeling from scandal after scandal of massive exam leakages. An angry minister for Education then Amanya Mushega jettisoned Ongom in hope of restoring confidence in the exams body.
In an interview with the Sunday Monitor, Ongom blamed his woes on incapacity to handle exams printing that the country plunged into by a decision driven by revolutionary fever rather than careful planning when the minister ordered that printing of exams in London ends immediately to start domestic printing.
At Uneb, Bukenya succeeded in shielding the body from the media. Since then, exam leakages have been reported to be on the decline each successive year, though cheating still lingers in much diminished numbers and with less media scrutiny.
As an examinations body, Uneb has for much of the time tried to avoid the drama that has dogged other public institutions, receiving its fair share of managed publicity usually limited to release of exam results, a calendar event that immediately shifts attention to ace candidates and a commentary here and there of chronically poor performing districts.
Mr Bukenya had previously worked with the East African Examinations Council (EAEC) which collapsed following the fall of the East Africa Community.
Many colleagues who had been part of the regional body formed the core team at national exams body, some still in service today.
Majority, led by Bukenya who is approaching his 80s, are well beyond retirement.
Education Minister Jessica Alupo says she is aware of concerns that part of the problem is a system clog where upward growth has been difficult because there have been few or no changes at the top for nearly two decades.
“That is one of the issues that has been brought to my attention but what I am focusing on is results, are the people holding the positions able to deliver,” she said, “that is my concern.”
The minister said the question of age or over stay could not rank higher in priority “for such a sensitive body.”
The others in top management are Mr Fred Kiyemba, head finance and accounts (Bukenya’s old job), Mr William Kabanza head of Human Resource and Administration and Dr Saverino Pido in charge research and data management.
Below them is Chrysostom Kibeti head of primary and Mr Daniel Odong who is head of Secondary. All of these are above the retirement age of 60.
But critics say the clogging at the top has meant that institutional regeneration has become a challenge as potential managers serve and retire when they hit 60 years draining the institution of experience growing into top management.