In 2007, shortly after Uganda became the first county in sub Saharan Africa to introduce Universal Secondary Education, President Museveni announced that the government would establish at least one Secondary School in every sub-county in Uganda.
The policy has since been incorporated in the government’s five year development plan and the National Development Plan.
At the time the government first announced the policy, there were slightly more than 1,000 sub-counties in the country.
Statistics from the United Nations had at the time revealed that only about 35 per cent of secondary school-age children in Africa were in schools, which was the worst secondary school enrollment figure in the world.
In Uganda only about 50 per cent of the primary school leavers would go on to secondary school.
The low enrolment levels which seemed to mostly affect girl children and those from poor families were associated with financial and cultural constraints and lack of schools and requisite education facilities in some of the sub-counties.
The government’s introduction of Universal Secondary Education was therefore partially aimed at addressing those challenges.
Under the arrangement, government provides an annual grant which allows students to attend public schools and other participating private schools for free, while parents foot the bills for meals, uniforms, stationery and other school needs.
President Museveni, while speaking at Beeza Al Hajji Senior Secondary School in Adjumani District where he laid a foundation stone for the construction of a library in April this year, announced that government had so far constructed a total of 1096 schools in the country.
Earlier in February 2015 at the close of a week-long NRM Caucus retreat at the National Leadership Institute in Kyankwanzi, Mr Museveni said he was to mobilise Shs137 billion to enable his government construct secondary schools in the remaining 274 sub-counties across the country within a space of one year.
Government, Mr Museveni said, would use at least Shs500 million on the construction of simple classroom structures and laboratories.
Mr Museveni’s pronouncements in Kyankwanzi would therefore suggest that the country’s needs stand at 1,370 schools, but according to figures pertaining to the 2016 general election, there were 1,403 sub-counties in Uganda as of March 2016. That would mean that the government still has to construct another 307 secondary schools before the promise can be deemed to have been fully met.
However, the number of sub-counties might increase after the new districts that the 9th Parliament agreed to create become operational in the course of the 10th Parliament.
Besides Kagadi, Kakumiro, Omoro and Rubanda districts which became operational on July 1, 2016, Namisindwa, Pakwach, Butebo, Rukiga, Kyotera and Bunyangabu will become operational on July 1, this year, Nabilatuk, Bugweri, Kasanda, Kwania, Kapelebyong and Kikuube are expected to become operational in July 2018, while Obongi, Kazo, Rwampara, Kitagwenda, Madi-Okollo, Karenga and Lusot – are expected to become effective on July 1, 2019.
The realignment of boundaries to accommodate those changes might result into the creation of new Sub Counties or Municipalities and subsequently a need for more secondary schools.
Late in June 2015, the Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, told Parliament during the “Prime Ministers’ Question Time” that Government had by then built “569 grandiose schools” in various parts of the country, but that some Sub counties are yet to be covered.
“This programme is on course, but as of today, 273 sub-counties still have not got government secondary schools,” he said.
The grandiose schools that Dr Rugunda mentions include several World Bank funded schools such as a Shs3.8 billion school at Bukooli College in Bugiri District, which President Museveni launched in March 2015. Mr Museveni said that 500 similar structures were to be constructed countrywide.
The Minister for Education and Sports, Ms Janet Museveni, told the 23rd Education and Sports Sector review meeting at the Golf Course Hotel in Kampala in August 2016 that the ministry intends to step up activity around the provision of more secondary schools.
“Government continues with the policy of establishing a government secondary school in every sub-county and a UPE school in every Parish. This programme will be scaled up in FY 2017/18 according to our proposed planning for that programme,” she said.
The meeting at the Golf Course Hotel aimed at assessing the Ministry’s performance during the Financial Year 2015/16 and identifying key areas that required prioritization in the Ministry’s budget for the Financial Year 2017/18.
Figures obtained from the Ministry of Education and Sports indicate that enrolment for secondary education has been on the rise since Universal Secondary Education was introduced. In the first one year alone, figures rose from 50 per cent of pupils who had sat for Primary Leaving Examinations to 69 per cent.
The 2013 Secondary Education Sub Sector report from the same Ministry points at an exponential increase.
“Increased access has further been demonstrated through increased Net Enrolment Ratio from 24.6 per cent in 2011 to 25 per cent in 2012. This has been achieved through construction of seed secondary schools targeting sub-counties without any form of secondary school,” the sub sector report says.
Figures from the Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb) also indicate that the number of students who have been sitting for national examinations has also been on the rise. Those who sat for of Uganda Certificate of Education O-level) examinations rose from 172,000 in 2006 to about 265,000 in 2010.
The number of those who sat for both the Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) also rose from 172,000 in 2006 to 265,000 in 2010 while those who sat for the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE) examinations had risen from about 100,000 to 314,286 in 2016, increments that could be attributed to close proximity of education facilities to most of the localities in which the students come from.
Universal Secondary Education (USE) was meant to be about enhancing access and growth, but what they have put up are political and not education structures. The quality of those structures is questionable. Government was meant to equip them with furniture, provide them with libraries and electricity which are not there. There are no teachers because government slapped on a ban on the recruitment. So who is teaching the children there?” –
Mathias Mpuuga, MP Masaka Municipality, Shadow Minister for Education
“I think government has done a commendable job. We are seeing some magnificent structures where there were grass thatched schools, but a lot still has to be done especially in the recruitment of science teacher. The budget for this financial year had provided for the recruitment of another 2000, but there are no funds. It is an unfunded priority. As a committee we are trying to reallocate some resources to fund it,”
Connie Nakayenze Galiwango, Mbale Woman MP, Chairperson Parliamentary Committee on Education and Sports
Daily Monitor position
President Museveni and officials in the Education ministry should be commended for the achievements, but a lot still needs to be done.
While schools are now within easy reach they are not well equipped which would perhaps explain why many of public officers do not enroll their children in public schools.
The new buildings must be equipped with furniture and laboratory equipment. While 809 schools were in the Financial Year 2011/12 provided with science specimens for UCE science practical examinations, specimens to help them during normal teaching, which have been hard to come by, laboratories are ill equipped. This partially explains why performance in science subjects remains a very big challenge.
Performance in science subjects was poor in 2013 with Chemistry emerging as the worst done. In 2015 performance in Biology, Agriculture and Mathematics fell to a new all-time low.
In the financial years 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 5,060 teachers of mathematics and science were trained under the Training of secondary science and Mathematics teachers’ project, but the nation must address itself to teachers’ welfare especially housing.
Government should also consider among other things equipping libraries with enough text books and reading materials and ending delayed disbursement of funds to schools. Only then can the schools command meaning and significance. Only then will Uganda once again lay claim to being a center of excellence in education.