By V. Wandawa & C. Businge
Haawah Namyalo, 21, sat her Aâ€™level at St. Johnâ€™s Secondary school, Bweyogerere, in 2009 and scored 18 points in history, economics, geography and entrepreneurship. Her classmates who scored the same points in science subjects were admitted to university on government sponsorship, she wasnâ€™t.
Namyalo wanted to study journalism or tourism but these courses were no longer being sponsored by the Government, like most other arts and humanities. Namyalo had been told sciences was too difficult for girls, so she did not want to do them in Aâ€™ level.
Coming from a poor family headed by a single mother, she knew that they only way she could access university education was through government sponsorship.
â€œMy mother could not afford to pay fees for boarding students yet it was compulsory for me to attend both morning and evening preps. I would leave home very early and return as late as 10:00pm,â€ she recalls.
When Namyalo missed out on government sponsorship, she found a job where she earns sh120,000 a month. â€œRight now, I do not know what my fate is regarding university education, I have left it all in Godâ€™s hands,â€ she says.
Her mother, Agnes Nalugya, separated from her husband when the children were still young. â€œHe left all responsibility to me,â€ Nalugya says.
Her only source of income is from selling vegetables. â€œI told my children I would cater for their education up to Senior Six because I cannot afford University fees.
â€œI am glad Namyalo is a disciplined girl and her teachers never complained about her. She scored 18points even with the problems we had. If she was in a better school she would even have performed better.â€
Nalugya added: â€œFrom her salary, she has helped me to pay off the loan I had taken to pay her fees. She also contributes to her siblingsâ€™ fees.â€
Nalugya is not happy that her daughter failed to get government scholarship because she did arts and not science subjects. â€œI believe she deserves government sponsorship because she worked hard and excelled.
This issue of scrapping the scholarships for arts is not fair because itâ€™s a gift. While one student is good at arts, another is good at sciences and they can all excel.â€
Like Namyalo, more girls could miss Government sponsorship because of the emphasis on sciences. Over the years, girls have also performed worse than boys in sciences.
For instance of those who sat for biology exams in Aâ€™ level last year, 0.8% of the boys and only 0.4% of the girls scored Grade A. In Mathematics 4.4% of boys and 2.6% of girls scored Grade A. In chemistry, 0.8% of boys and 0.3% of girls passed in Grade A.
The courses that had a majority of females qualifying for them have been gradually phased out from Government sponsorship. They include urban planning, adult and community education, Mass Communication, tourism, arts, social work and wocial Administration, human resource management, Development Studies, library and information science, social sciences, arts in education and secretarial studies
The Government stopped sponsoring these courses to promote courses that were considered important for national development like Architecture, information technology, computer science, economics, engineering, pharmacy, medicine, agriculture, veterinary medicine, food science, statistics, surveying and law.
Makerere university is aware that the science focus might put girls at a disadvantage. The university is therefore working out a new formula for fair representation of women in Government sponsorship. The new formula might be applied as early as August this year when the Joint Admissions Board takes in new students.
The universityâ€™s vice-chancellor, Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba, says management is ready to support a proposed scheme in which 40% of Government sponsorship slots in arts and 30% in sciences are reserved for female students.
In the majority of humanities courses, females are more or less-equal to males in admissions. It is time to wait and see if the move in Makerere will yield results.
Why girls perform worse in sciences
By Conan Businge
Advocates for womenâ€™s education argue that given the same opportunities girls can perform as well as boys in sciences.
However, the problem begins with the fact that girls get fewer opportunities to go to school in the first place. Dorah Bamakama, an engineer at Hualie Technologies, says girls can do science subjects as well as boys if they change their attitude.
Paul Mukisa, a teacher and parent in Mubende, explains that girls are told that scientific and technical courses are too difficult for them. â€œOnce they believe such wrong advice, they begin to perform poorly in sciences,â€ he said.
High school drop-out rates in primary and secondary school make matters worse. â€œParents and guardians are more likely to withdraw a girl rather than a boy from school if they lacked enough money for school requirements,â€ explains Moses Mawanda, a primary school teacher, in Masaka.
According to statistics in the education ministry, over 90% of those enrolled in business, technical and vocational institutions are boys.
The United Nations says socio cultural barriers are the greatest impediment to womenâ€™s access to scientific and technological education.
The education of males is given preference over that of girls. Economically troubled families prefer to invest their limited resources in the education of males, since females might eventually marry and thus transfer their knowledge, prestige and income to the family of the men who marry them.
Jacquelynne Eccles a professor of Psychology, carried out a study that found that females tend to attach less value to mathematics than boys.
Statistics on science performance
In the 2008/2009 academic year, when the Government was still sponsoring arts and science students alike, the ratio of girls to boys was about 50:50, according to records at the Makerere University academic registrarâ€™s office.
Today, boys nearly double girls on government sponsorship at Makerere: About 39% are girls while 61% are boys.
Officials say the shift in favour of science accounts for this gender inequality in Government sponsorship.
If this ratio remains the same, it means out of 6,000 students to be admitted on government sponsorship in public universities this year, 2,340 would be girls and 3,660 would be boys, a difference of 1,320.
A sample of women who have made it in sciences
Eng. Irene Muloni
She is an electrical engineer with masters in business administration, a certified public private partnerships specialist and a corporate member of the Uganda institution of professional engineers. In April 2002, she was elected the managing director of Uganda Electricity Distribution Company limited before she joined politics. In the recently concluded elections, she won the seat for woman MP for Bulambuli district. Muloni is also an advocate for gender equality and womenâ€™s empowerment.
Dr. Grace Nambatya
She has done extensive research on herbal medicine. Nambatya holds a PhD in medicinal chemistry. Currently, she is the director of research at the Natural Chemotherapeutics research laboratory, Wandegeya. Her vast research has proven that herpes can be treated using shea butter oil, jambula can treat diabetes, AIDS patients in Uganda can live longer by eating soya and pumpkin seeds, cucumber is essential to boost immunity, yoghurt enhances digestion while water melon is good for the heart.
Dr. Florence Mirembe
She is a renowned save the mother delivery activist and a former representative of Uganda on the World Medical Association. She also contributed in setting up the Save the motherâ€™s masters programme at Uganda Christian University, to fight the high maternal mortality rate.
Dr. Florence Muranga
She is the director and brain behind the Presidential Initiative on Banana Industrial Development to process bananas.
In the initiative banana peelings are used to generate bio gas which is used to dry the bananas which are later crushed to make flour that can be used for various products.
Dr. Teresa Sengooba
She is the regional coordinator for the East Africa Programme for Bio safety systems, Uganda chapter. Sengooba has also carried out vast agricultural research.
Eng. Proscovia Njuki
Proscovia Njuki was the first female graduate engineer in East Africa. She graduated from Nairobi University in 1974. In 1989, Njuki was among the founders of the Association of Women Engineers, Technicians and Scientists in Uganda. She worked with UTV for 28 years, after which she retired.
Dr. Margaret Mungherera
She is a former president of the Uganda Medical Association. Mungherera is a renowned psychologist with over 25years of practice in Uganda. She is a Government forensic psychiatrist and is also very passionate about womenâ€™s health.
Dr. Philippa Musoke
Her love for children lays her at the top pedestal of the Ugandan women in the medical world. She is one of the top paediatric specialists in Africa on treating children with HIV/AIDS.
Musoke graduated from Makerere University with a degree in medicine in 1981 but left Uganda four years later to work in the US. After 10 years, she returned to Uganda. Musoke is also a researcher in Prevention of Mother to child HIV transmission of HIV and childhood TB.
Science focus locks girls out of govt sponsorship