By Taddeo Bwambale
In spite of Uganda’s policy on free education, one out of every 20 children of school-going age (7 to 15 years) has never attended school, a new report by child-based organisations reveals.
The Out of School Children Study in Uganda report released on Wednesday was commissioned by Strømme Foundation, Save the Children, ERIKS Development Partners, UNHCR and UNICEF.
The report unveiled is based on a survey conducted in 16 districts and four refugee sites where 3,138 households were interviewed.
According to the report, 67% of children complete Primary Seven, presenting a grim picture of Uganda’s efforts to achieve the millennium goal on Universal Primary Education.
Priscilla Mirembe Serukka, the Stromme Foundation East Africa said the study was meant to document the reasons for dropout and non-enrolment and suggest possible interventions.
The study was carried out in Abim, Amuru, Arua, Bushenyi, Busia, Hoima, Isingiro, Kampala, Kayunga, Kumi, Luweero, Mbale, Namayingo, Napak, Oyam, and Zombo, and refugee sites in Nakivale, Kyangwali, Rhino and Kampala.
The study shows that about 9% of children with disability attend school but only 6% of them complete primary school and continue studying in secondary school.
Among the main fees that lead to drop outs include uniform or clothing, examination, building, development fund, books and supplies, PTA fees, transportation and coaching.
Dr Daniel Nkaada, the Commissioner for basic education in the education ministry maintained that Universal primary Education (UPE) and Universal Secondary Education (USE) were free.
Dr Christine Mpyangu, a consultant who led the study said majority (58%) of the households surveyed reported that their children had never joined school because they lack school fees.
Some of the children cited overcrowding in classroom, repeating of classes, early pregnancy and loss of interest in education by parents.
“Other households cited children’s participation in domestic work, such as cooking, cleaning and fetching water and wood, while 21% cited long distance to school,” she explained.
According to the report, 25% of children who have never been to school and 75% of those who drop out of school cite domestic work for being out of school.
More female children (30.5%) were out of school due to domestic work compared to male children (19.9%), Mpyangu explained.
Makerere University don, Prof Edward Edward Kirumira advised Government to review the policy on free education to highlight the cost of primary and secondary education.
Government pays an average of sh7,000 and sh41,000 annually for every student of UPE and USE student, respectively, a cost experts say is inadequate for quality learning.
Although Uganda’s share of education in the national budget increased from approximately 7% in 1990 to 24% in 2003, this share has fluctuated between 15% and 16% in the last four years.
With Uganda’s population growth rate of 3.2%, the demand for social services such as education is not matching the increase in the national budget.