LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT: Is Inadequate Funding Undermining UPE?

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Since 1986, 26th January and 6th February of every year are marked as special days (Liberation day and Tarehe Sita) in the life of post-independent Uganda since 1962.

Another classroom block at St. Peters Primary School

Another classroom block at St. Peters Primary School

Both during the colonial and post-colonial era till 1996, no single Government in Uganda had either piloted or rolled-out a primary education system intended to directly benefit every single person interested in attaining education, beginning with the Universal Primary Education (UPE) programme.

UPE was then appreciated as one the strategies for reduction of mass poverty in Uganda, following the global, national and local calls for debt relief.

Nakaswa primary school in Mukono

Nakaswa primary school in Mukono

Uganda Debt Network (UDN) was part of this call and cause and in fact was launched by the First Lady Janet Museveni.

These calls made Uganda the first country in the world to benefit from the World Bank/ IMF debt relief under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative.

Rather than pay-back to creditors (principle and interest), Uganda was asked to channel such resources into mass poverty reduction programmes like feeder roads, PMA, primary health care, etc.

One of the classroom blocks at Butaswa Primary School in Buyende District

One of the classroom blocks at Butaswa Primary School in Buyende District

The HIPC “financing” window coupled with the 2006 NRM Manifesto and the obvious need for education on ground became a good ingredient for establishment of the UPE policy and programme in 1997.

UPE is to that extent, a child of the NRM regime, even though so far it does not enjoy a day similar to the Liberation Day and Tarehe Sita.

Despite relative investment and achievements, the challenges of primary education in Uganda remain as numerous as the grass in the Teso plains.

One of the classroom blocks at St. Peters Primary School in Ssenyi village Buikwe district

One of the classroom blocks at St. Peters Primary School in Ssenyi village Buikwe district

This time, nonetheless, I will deal with one challenge of financing or lack of it – capitation.

UDN fieldwork monitoring of Government expenditure and studies show that, in spite of the existence of an allocation formula for allocation of UPE capitation, some district officials, head teachers and members of the School Management Committees (SMCs) and/ Finance Committee are not aware of this formula.

P.1 pupils of New Buyanga Primary School in Namutumba district waiting for their teacher

P.1 pupils of New Buyanga Primary School in Namutumba district waiting for their teacher

We recall that in the FY 2006/07, the Ministry of Education provided for UGX 16,000 per pupil per year as the unit cost for minimum education standard in primary schools.

The reality has been that primary schools, instead, receive about UGX 7,260 as capitation grant per pupil per year to-date.

A recent interview with 40 head teachers and members of SMCs in a sample of 3 districts: Bugiri, Bushenyi and Katakwi affirms this ignorance.

Please teacher, May I come in; A pupil at the staffroom for Kasira Primary School in Buyende

Please teacher, May I come in; A pupil at the staffroom for Kasira Primary School in Buyende

It was in 2012/13, a revised uniform rate was increased to UGX 450,000 per term, regardless of the pupil population in such a school. That money is expected to cover fixed costs and any other incidentals.

Bugiri Primary school with 1,003 pupils in 2011 was even receiving UGX 4,965 per pupil per year, or UGX 1,655 per pupil per term.

This was only 22% of the required amount. So really, schools have been condemned to receiving money much less than what is required for their basic operations.

Pupils of Noor Islamic  PS in Iganga Municipal Council. Their teacher looks crestfallen

Pupils of Noor Islamic PS in Iganga Municipal Council. Their teacher looks crestfallen

Most head teachers are perpetually indebted to the nearby trading centres and some individuals, in order to run a Government school!!.

Moreover, the amounts received by schools per pupil per term keeps on varying even with a constant number of pupils in a school.

Yet no serious explanation is provided by the responsible authorities to explain these money fluctuations.

This has rendered effective school budgeting and planning quite difficult for the school authorities.

Since last year when Seeta Church Of Uganda Primary School was devastated by a storm, pupils have been studying from this open classroom block

Since last year when Seeta Church Of Uganda Primary School was devastated by a storm, pupils have been studying from this open classroom block

For they are never sure of how much they are to receive in a term and late disbursement to schools. In some cases funds are usually are arriving at the end of the school term.

Mr. President, is this really the amount of funds that the Government which you provide over sends to each UPE school? Or is someone out there doing some mischief?

The P.1 classrom block at Kyamatende  Primary School in Kamuli district

The P.1 classrom block at Kyamatende Primary School in Kamuli district

Isn’t it time to rethink that UPE schools accommodate some moderated cost-sharing, to partly remedy underfunding of UPE? Shall we re-priotise certain budget areas and cut on opulence in some Government institutions, to avail funds to UPE? Else, UPE schools under current challenges can at best offer sub-standard service.

This temporary shelter is shared by two classes at Butaswa PS

This temporary shelter is shared by two classes at Butaswa PS

So, as we mark 26th January and 6th February (Liberataion day and Tarehe Sita) we need to cross-check how much is released from Kampala to our schools and whether this actually is what is received by any UPE school or there is a failure even at this point.

All in all, once we join hands, UPE still has room in improving the welfare and development life of Ugandan households in the post-independent Uganda.

Julius Mishambi

Uganda Debt Network 

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  • lola betty

    Sincerely fellow Ugandans, where are the MPs of these areas? Who pays the salaries of the teachers leave alone scholastic materials. Indeed Mr President be kind and check on this matter and let our Ugandan children get better education. In this 21st century children still get education under this condition? I am sure the MPs of those areas have their children in posh schools. These ones will never see computers for the rest of their lives. Do something immediately Mr President. God bless my (our) country Uganda.