By John Agaba
The government is consulting religious and cultural leaders as it fast-tracks preparations for the 2014 population and housing census.
Uganda Bureau of Statistics, the body mandated to execute all statistic-related functions in the country, on Monday convened a sensitization program for religious and cultural leaders.
During the meeting, the leaders were taken through the importance of a census especially in the social economic transformation of Uganda.
Francis Mashate, the national census coordinator, appealed to the leaders to relay this message as “you can reach more masses.” He also asked them to advise the body about how best the national census can be executed. The leaders promised to cooperate.
Mashate said that there were a lot of societal misconceptions and myths surrounding the issue of ‘counting people’ and that in some traditions people are not comfortable counting their children.
“Some will not want to tell us the number of children they have. Others will not want to tell us the many heads of cattle they have. But we are counting on you to tell them the importance of this exercise,” said Mashate to the leaders.
“Some people think we carry out a census to only count people,” he added. “But we do not only count people. We collect information about them, if they have jobs, how much they earn, and their levels of illiteracy, which the government uses in planning.”
He explained that “this information helps government in resource allocation; and knowing the percentages of its population who are children, under five, or disabled.”
Uganda last had a census in 2002. In 2012 it was postponed, same as in 2013.
According to the 2002 census, Uganda has a fertility rate of 7 children per woman; has a relatively young population with more than half being children, and a population growth rate of 3.2%. “But this is old data,” said Mashate.
He said that the 2014 census will be carried out starting on the night of August 27/28. “We shall be asking people ‘where did you sleep on the night of 27th coming to 28,” he said. “It will be a door to door exercise because we want more information about everyone.”
He said the process will last about 10 days. The provisional results will be out October 2014 and the ultimate results by December.
When asked about Ugandans in the diaspora or those who will have travelled on the night of the census, Mashate said, “Only those who will have spent the night of August 27/28 in Uganda will be counted. People who will not be in the country on that night will not be counted.”
Andrew Mukulu, the deputy census coordinator, said concealing of information from census officials was a serious offence and punishable if taken to court and found guilty, when asked about the measures in place to ensure people don’t hide information or lie about themselves.
He said that they have made questionnaires that will help them elicit the information they want.
Uganda Muslim Supreme Council public relations officer, Nsereko Mutumba, was concerned that since 1992 “whichever censuses they carry out they say the population of Muslims is 12%. Does it mean that the number of Muslims does not grow?”
Bishop of Mukono (Anglican), Joseph Ssebagala, appealed to the religious leaders to sensitize the public about the census. “We must all get involved. It is very important to us as leaders to sensitize the people for our social harmony,” he said. “We also want to understand the real picture of the people that we are leading because it is long since we last had a census.”