Tuesday March 25 2014

Restructure education ministry

I am writing in response to a story in the Daily Monitor of March 19, about the Ministry of Education Permanent Secretary Ms Rose Nassali being reprimanded by Parliament’s Local Government Committee over teachers missing their salaries. The story mentioned that 21,407 teachers have not received their February salaries.
Ms Nassali should not be held accountable for this mess. First, because she is new in that office, and second because bureaucracy has existed in the ministry even before she was appointed as PS. The ministry needs to revise its operations and do restructuring where necessary.

I say this as an eye witness to whatever has been happening in the ministry over the last couple of years. Mid last year, teachers almost went on rampage over delayed pay, and it became a battle between Uganda National Teachers Union and government. As usual, the government emerged the “winner”. About the same time, educational institutions lacked adequate [and for some total] funding.

Vocational, technical institutes and colleges have been running on loans acquired by their principals at their own risk and these loans have been used mainly to foot water and electricity bills, and also to partially settle their creditors’ debts– suppliers. This is due to the absence, delay and inadequacy of the institutions’ entitled quarterly releases which are meant to facilitate their day-to-day operations considering the fact that their enrollment is always too low to provide enough funding from students’ school fees.

In an interaction with a couple of administrators of some institutes (who preferred to remain unanimous for security reasons), they think that government is deliberately trying to do away with vocational education.
The system according to them is also bureaucratic that for a project to be approved or funded, one needs to gather so many irrelevant authorisations which bring about uncalled-for expenditure in transport and paperwork. Amidst all this, the greatest majority of these administrators have not seen their salary since September last year. How does the ministry expect them to deliver efficiently in such a tight working environment?

In a nut shell, the permanent secretary could have erred in not knowing about the unpaid salaries, but the education ministry is also a generally messy ministry that needs to rearrange itself. Government needs to revise the funding provided to this ministry and then ensure that there is transparency in the allocations and circulation of these funds.

Edmond Taremwa,