Ugandans enjoy free things and this love for free things makes us want all services from government offered freely.
Many years ago, government introduced free services starting with the Universal Primary Education (UPE) and Universal Secondary Education (USE). With this, everyone was happy even though there are drop-outs along the way.
However, let’s take a critical assessment of the impact that a Primary Seven graduate can cause given that the next steps from Senior One to Six, and university bring more valuable milestones as compared to stopping at Primary Seven.
I say we would rather implement universal education from Senior One, after parents have met their part of responsibility from Primary One to Primary Seven.
Here is why; A Primary Seven leaver is far from being able to make the contribution that a country greatly needs.
So, instead, we could consider shelter for the very vulnerable Ugandans because it is a vital aspect of the society. It is also a right, just like education and health.
Many urban centres and towns are dotted with informal settlements . It should be noted that informal settlements in the urban centres mushroom mainly because of rural-urban migration.
However, government has a responsibility to ensure there are no informal settlements and this is a very huge responsibility. It is a big request of our humble government, but also very necessary.
As a country, we would rather opt for free shelter at the expense of UPE but maintain USE. Parents can pay for primary education for their children and this would motivate them to make sure that learners complete primary level.
It is important for parents to actively participate in the education of their children, starting at a lower level. For now, we need to ensure that the people live in decent and well-planned facilities.
The other reason for preferring shelter assistance for communities is because it is a one-off as government will not build a house for the same family again. Instead, the government will provide other services.
By properly sheltering people, the health of families is safeguarded and their security, privacy and dignity are ensured.
Sheltering is fundamental in building and maintaining the psychological, social, physical and livelihood aspects of families.
Shelter assistance for the community can potentially have a much wider positive impact than simply ensuring that people have a roof over their heads. Shelter creates a stable location, and an ‘address’ where other services can be accessed. Which includes healthcare, education, nutrition, safe water and sanitation and markets. Communities will not worry about lack of shelter. As they will have a sense of identity. A place and neighbourhood to belong to, and build on from there.
Supported by some studies which show that shelter creates livelihood opportunities for people, and since the government will be fully in charge, I would imagine that such projects would support, for example, local procurement, training of construction workers in prudent construction practices, and would improve the quality of construction. Therefore, we can deliberately swap UPE funding to support community shelter instead and revert to it later.
Mr Simon J. Mone is a civil engineer