By Conan Businge and Esther Kizza
THE examination bodies in the country are in a serious financial crisis and results of thousands of candidates, especially for vocational programmes, are likely to delay for months.
Worse off are the three newly created examination bodies — the Uganda Business and Technical Examinations Board (UBTEB), the Uganda Nurses and Midwives Examinations Board (UNMEB) and Uganda Allied Health Examinations Board.
The three, carved out of the Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB), have been struggling with massive budget shortfalls.
As a result, the examinations the candidates wrote last year are yet to be marked. There is also a possibility that the setting of examinations for June/July, for UBTEB students will be affected.
The funding shortages come at a time UBTEB is taking on more responsibilities in examining students. In January this year, UNEB wrote to UBTEB reminding them that the forthcoming examinations (June 2014 Examination Series) will be the last examinations UNEB will be conducting in business and technical examinations.
This means that all fresh candidates or candidates who will be repeating their examinations, should register with UBTEB.
Such new courses to be taken on by UBTEB include national diploma courses, national certificate courses and community polytechnic courses under business. In technical, such courses will be in higher diplomas, ordinary diplomas, craft and technician courses and community polytechnics.
The management and administration of examinations was fragmented before UBTEB was established, as some examinations were being conducted by MUBS, others by UNEB while others were conducted by individual institutions.
There was lack of uniformity in the awards of certificates from these different institutions. This made it very difficult to standardise qualifications offered by the different institutions offering courses in the business, technical and other specialised fields like agriculture, fisheries, meteorology, lands and survey, among others.
Ministry raises red flag
In a December 2013 letter to the Secretary to the Treasury, the Ministry of Education raised a red flag on the likely implications of continued funding shortfalls on the examinations boards.
The letter written on behalf of the permanent secretary by Dr. Yusuf Nsubuga, the director for basic and secondary education noted with concern that, although the inter-ministerial committee in preparation for the 2012/2013 budget had agreed that the shortfalls amounting to sh100m for the examinations boards and other critical areas is catered for, no budgetary provision was made.
Of this amount, sh23.83b was meant for examination bodies.
“This funding was not provided and the sector had to suffocate other areas by reallocating some funds to keep the boards running. This, however, can no longer work as the sector ceiling has remained permanently inelastic,” Nsubuga stated in the letter copied to, among others, education minister Jessica Alupo.
Nsubuga further noted that although the ministry had categorically pointed out that both USE and Universal Post-O’level education and training (UPOLET) enrolments far exceeded the number that could be supported within the available resources, no provisions were made in the budget, leaving a shortfall of sh16.3b.
Also as a result of increased candidature for UPE, USE and UPOLET, UNEB had a shortfall of sh1.347b to facilitate the marking of the 2013 examinations.
For the first time in years, the release of both primary and O’ level examinations have delayed due to late release of funds. The marking of A’ level examinations has also delayed due to lack of funds.
The situation is not any better at the nurses and midwives examinations board. The secretary, Helen Mukakarisa, says besides inadequate funding, the funds are always released late affecting the administration and release of examinations.
“As of now, UNMEB should have already released results for students who sat for their final examinations last year. However, due to inadequate and untimely funding, this has delayed,” disclosed Mukakarisa who was optimistic the result would finally be released tomorrow (February 20); having recently received sh800m to complete the process.
The Board is supposed to conduct promotional examinations in April, followed by final national examinations in May, but all these examinations may be delayed, according to Mukakarisa, due to lack of funds.
Allied Health Examinations Board
At the Allied Health Examinations Board, only sh2.5b of the required sh3b was allocated leaving a shortfall of sh0.5b. The board executive secretary, Kato Kimoga, says they have never received the full budgeted amount.
“We never get the amount of money we always budget for,” Kimoga explained. “As of now, we still need more money to run a number of activities, but have to wait. We are conducting examinations for the first semester. We are likely to have a problem of delayed marking and release of results, if the funds are not released on time. But we are doing our best to ensure that we do not get into such a situation,” he explained.
Nurses and Midwives Examinations Board
Although the ministry had requested for sh9bn for technical examinations board, only sh3.5b was allocated as was in the previous financial year, leaving a deficit of sh5.5b.
The board, in a letter to the Permanent Secretary, said they had to suspend key activities like training of instructors on the use of assessment tools, purchase of computers and staff recruitment.
The board publicist, Paul Amoru, says key activities in the examination process will have to be frozen, if the money is not released on time.
Such activities include inspection of craft projects, setting of examinations, working and dissemination of examinations timetables, and administration of the examinations throughout the country.
When contacted, Nsubuga explained that the inadequate funding of the examination bodies is rooted, “in the variance on the unit cost by the examination bodies’ secretariats and that of the finance and treasury team.”
“Treasury is still considering a lower unit cost for examination bodies, but the examination bodies also argue that it is inadequate and should be raised,” he explained.
But, he also believes that the examination bodies “must learn to operate within their budgets, since that is always what is allocated, within the available resources.” Nsubuga admits that due to macro-economic situation, there are always shortages, “which have to be resolved for the betterment of service delivery.”