Poor funding killing UPE - report

Under criticism. Pupils of Olwiyo Primary School in Nwoya District attend classes in May last year. The report notes that children have remained out of school due to growing demands. PHOTO BY TOBBIAS JOLLY OWINY

What you need to know:

  • Recommendation. Government is advised to focus resources on a learner’s 11 years of study before they enrol for skills courses and allow higher education to be privately sponsored.

The National Planning Authority (NPA) yesterday castigated government for failing to fund the Universal Primary Education (UPE) and to deliver quality education.
However, the NPA commended government for achieving more than half of the UPE objectives.

According to NPA, 60 per cent of the UPE targets of providing facilities and resources to enable every child enter school, ensure completion of primary cycle, make education equitable, affordable and reduce poverty have been delivered.

Dr Joseph Muvawala, NPA executive director, noted in their findings that the government’s funding can facilitate only 10 per cent of the activities in the education sector.

“In this sector, even if you came from heaven to achieve the maximum efficiency, results can only improve between five to 10 per cent. Without improving financing to the education sector to deal with the critical issues, it is going to be difficult for anyone, even if you change permanent secretaries a million times, to achieve the desired learning outcomes,” he said at the launch of the NPA report on UPE at the President’s Office in Kampala yesterday.

He asked government to focus resources on a learner’s 11 years of study before they enrol for skills courses and allow any progression to higher education to be privately sponsored.

“Since we don’t have enough resources, we focus on basic education to make sure people have numeracy, literacy, critical thinking and problem solving skills. Let us consolidate our money on Primary One to Senior Four and beyond that, take them to skills because that is when people are productive. As a country, higher education should be private,” Dr Muvawala said.

His concerns were echoed by some of the participants at the launch but Mr Alex Kakooza, the Ministry of Education Permanent Secretary, warned that this can only be possible after a policy change.

“That will be a change in policy and will require to discuss it as a ministry and then government,” Mr Kakooza told Daily Monitor in a separate interview.
Mr Kakooza said following the launch of the teacher policy, government has allocated Shs6.6b to implement it next year to address some of the issues highlighted such as retraining teachers to meet the changing curriculum demands.

Government take
The State Minister of Finance for Planning, Mr David Bahati, told the participants that government has been focusing its resources on infrastructure but in two to three years from now, would re-channel its funds to facilitate education activities to improve on the quality.

Dr Goretti Nakabugo, Uwezo country director, said the country’s curriculum has all that is necessary to develop skills but implementation is poor.
She said it is not enough for the government to boast of enrolment numbers in schools when 90 per cent of the children are leaving without the basic knowledge of reading and counting.

“It is time to go back to the drawing board and make reading and counting the measure of UPE success. There was lip service in giving the outcomes in those UPE objectives. We needed to know how many children needed to have enrolled by what year. Rethink the objectives. We can’t afford losing a generation because many are in school but not learning,” Dr Nakabugo said.

The report on UPE titled; ‘Comprehensive Evaluation of the UPE Policy’ cited the need to increase government capitation grant of Shs14,000 per child to Shs59,503 annually for children in rural schools and Shs63,546 for urban pupils.

In addition, NPA recommended that the unit cost per child in UPE be raised from Shs415,943 to Shs1.2m.
“Given the massive resources required to improve the quality of UPE, it remains an illusion that the quality of education will improve under the current financing arrangements,” Dr Muvawala said.

Dr Muvawala asked government to develop community-based partnerships and financing models to bridge the funding gap, differentiate unit cost based on locations and pursue a less ambitious strategy to encourage more private participation, especially in higher education.
NPA also called for a clear policy for deployment and transfer of teachers to address the “huge disparities in pupil-teacher ratios” in primary schools.

UPE was introduced by government in 1997 to enable children from poor families also access education.
Government is supposed to pay the tuition while parents provide feeding, scholastic materials and uniform for their children.

However, Dr Muvawala said 12 per cent of the country’s children have remained out of school because of the growing demands in schools such as meals, building and scholastic materials.

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