National census: how and why you are being counted

Yesterday August 28 marked the official start of the national census across the country. It’s the first one we have had in over 12 years

Friday August 29 2014

Judith Kemigisha enumerating (R) workers at

Judith Kemigisha enumerating (R) workers at Kabale Trinity College in Kabale town. The national census started yesterday and will end on September 6. PHOTO BY Robert Muhereza 

By Gloria Haguma

Yesterday August 28 marked the official start of the national census across the country. It’s the first one we have had in over 12 years. The last national census was held in 2002. Mr Francis W Mashate, the national census coordinator talked to Next’s Gloria Haguma about the frequently asked questions, and why it has been postponed since 2012.

What is a census?
A census is the process of counting all the people in the country to obtain their social demographic characteristics, and also obtain other factors that relate to the population.
In the case of Uganda, we call it the national housing and population census, because it is based at household level. In other words, we shall be moving to households, because we are also interested in knowing the household conditions. What type of houses do they live in? What activities they are involved in. etc.
This will help us to get a broad range of data, regarding our population, which we then analyse and publish so that the various stakeholders can use it.
In most countries, the census is done in an interval of 10 years. With a few exceptions of those countries that have a lot of resources who undertake the exercise after five years.
But here in Uganda, we normally carry out a census after 10 years, given the fact that our systems are not developed, and we have to use the normal method of moving enumerators from household to household.

Give us a little background on the census
module in Uganda
Uganda has been having history of census from 1948, over a period of 10 years and in some instances we miss by one year. But generally the interval is 10 to 11 years.
You may recall that we had a census in 1980, then in 1991 and the most recent which was in 2002. The next one should have been in 2012.
However, because of the financial constraints on the side of government, given its many competing demands, it was considered prudent to postponed this exercise to 2013, and then eventually to 2014.
So it’s by design that this census is taking place at this time. It’s not that we just woke up and decided to do the census.
The gazetted dates for this census are August 28 to September 6.

What is the reference night?
The night of August 27, 2014 is the reference night. This means that whoever sleeps on Ugandan soil at midnight was counted as having been in Uganda, at that time, regardless of their nationality.
This night is important because it is the basis that will be used to determine what population was at the country at the time. The implication of this is that even if you are Ugandan, but you were not present on the census night, you will not be counted. If you are the head of the household, but are unavailable at that time, and we come to your home, we shall take a record of you, as the head, but when counting the members you will not be counted.

How is the counting done?
We use questionnaires. Preparation for a census takes four to five years. During that period, we draw maps, and demarcate the country into small areas for statistical purposes which we call numerical areas.
We do that throughout the area, and each mapped area consists of 120 to 150 houses.

Who gets counted in this census process?
Every house household is counted. During the mapping process we demarcate all the households. There is a possibility that by the time we start counting, new ones will have come up, but that is why we work with the local councils to show us all the households in the area.
After that we pilot our instruments to see if they are adequate for the process. We did a pilot in 2011. A pilot is a trial census. It helps you know the magnitude of the instruments you will need during this process.

What information is collected during the counting?
A wide range of information is asked. They begin by getting personal information like the age, sex, education levels. Then after that they ask about what has happened in the household, the property that is owed in the house, and each of them is of considerable value to us. This information is used for different purposes. For instance, the information gathered from mothers about births enables us to compute at a national level the fertility rate in the country. The number on deaths enables us to computer the maternity rate.
In other cases, like the property owned like mobile phones, this is useful because there are stakeholders like Uganda Communications Commission that want to know to what extent people can communicate using the phones; whether you own a TV or radio, government wants to know the best channel to pass on information on malaria, and thing like those. The ministry of education will be interested in picking on the age group of the young people. For instance, those children below five years, so that you know that in the next one year, they will be going to school, and where are they located. This way, the ministry can plan for UPE and also setting up schools.
In terms of the economic activity, we want to know how you are managing as a household. This helps to know the major economic activities in the country and how the benefit the economy.
This information is then analysed by UBOS and once the analysis is done, we disseminate it to the public and each stakeholder will take the information that they use.
We also ask questions about community facilities like water, health centres, and many others.

There have been reports of a rapid population growth in the country in the past. Do you think we are going to need a population cap in the near future?

I cannot say we have gotten there yet, but maybe by 2050, we could have almost reached there. Currently, the population is growing averagely at a rate of 3.2 per cent. In the last census, we were about 24.2 million people. In this current census, our projections show that we may be around 37 million. This means we have added on 10 million people within that period.
As we continue, because the more the population, the more it will double. We have not gotten to the point of needing cap, but that is why we are working with family planning institutions to begin guiding people on how to have reasonable number of children.
Population increase may not be a problem. The issue is we are able to provide for it. Our problem might be for the population to keep growing without an equal level of development. The quality of the population should be our main concern.
Capping also has its disadvantages. Introducing this system will result into having a population pyramid that is wide at the top. This means there will be more old people than the year people. So this means these will depend on the young people.

We haven’t had the census in the last 12 years. What does that mean?
When we do the census, the figures obtained are projected over a 10 year plan. And so government plans basing on that. But in between the 10 years, we do a number of surveys that help us monitor the population. And you know population figures are very important in terms off resource allocation.

There have been projects running in the past 12 years, and statistics were always used for instance, in relation to HIV/Aids, unemployment and the like. Where were figures coming from?
The bureau is the official source of statistics. The government cannot produce any numbers when they have not been verified by the bureau of statistics. So even those institutions that produce figures are approved by Ubos.
But you need to know that it’s not only UBOS that conduct these statistic surveys. It is the overall institute responsible for these. But there are these other agencies, like the ministries have planning units. These produce figures for their own administrative purposes. But when they produce and want them to be legal, they collaborate with the bureau and we look though them, and verify the methodology used.

Is there any other method of counting other than the door to door counting?
There is no other method as of now, to reach every household. The other method is the one used in developed countries, of the mailing system, where everybody is reached, since they all have email and postal addresses and they can be reached.
The other method could be the areal method, but with this method, you cannot see the people. This one can only be used on cattle, or houses.

Are the non-citizens also counted?
Yes we do. Remember that the census is to help the government plan for the people. So when you are planning, you won’t say these are Ugandans, these are not. Take for instance, Kisenyi area that has a large number of Somalis. But of course you do not refuse to take their more water points, or electricity, just because these are not Ugandans. You target that population too.

So what happens after September 6?
After the census we shall be receiving returns from the enumerators and these will be received at the sub county centres and then checked by the supervisors. If confirmed that they are good, they will be packed and moved to the district headquarters where they will be picked and brought here. We then enter the data into the system. And within the first eight weeks, around September 15, we shall be able to give you what we call provisional results.
These are quick numbers and these will basically give you how many people we are by sex and distribution, male ratios to women. We are hoping that by the end of next year, we shall have produced the final results. This time round, the process is faster because we are using an advanced canning system of counting.

What happens if I am in this area today, and then I move to another area a day later?
Everybody is counted once. So where the enumerator finds you is where you get counted from.

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