UNIVERSITY education plays a significant role in the development of countries and is key to economic advancement as knowledge-based economies replace traditional modes of production. Unfortunately, education is becoming inaccessible to children of the poor in Uganda.
A recasting of government sponsorship favouring science and technology was announced, a quota system was introduced, sciences were made compulsory at ordinary level and accommodation and feeding are to be scrapped from government-sponsored students. While such policies make tactical logic, they benefit the rich and raise a few issues that need to be addressed so that the rural poor can also benefit from them.
The use of an examination-based selection system as a key determinant of who gets government sponsorship disadvantages children of the poor. Few students from poor backgrounds can get government sponsorship.
The geniuses who get government sponsorship cannot afford food and accommodation. I nostalgically remember how I struggled to attain government sponsorship to relieve my father from paying fees. When I got government sponsorship it was a dream come true. I needed just transport and would do well on â€˜murramâ€™. I dread to imagine what would have happened if I had reached Makerere to be told there was no food and accommodation. I would have returned to wherever.
Government needs to consider core social and cultural barriers that disadvantage people, and think of ways of uplifting them.
Making sciences compulsory in secondary gives creates imbalances. Most candidates in rural and private schools cannot compete favourably because they are out-performed in sciences. Without the resources to teach sciences, schools often opted not to do sciences at all. Making science compulsory means they have no option. This makes students from the â€˜bigâ€™ schools take all the government scholarships, thus isolating the children of the poor.
The quota system was intended to increase representation of students from disadvantaged districts, but it does not address the categorisation that schooling, the curriculum and examinations execute in isolating students for university education.
Schools in the central region continue to dominate the state scholarships. Some districts do not have â€˜Aâ€™-level candidates, some have very few science candidates while others cannot raise the required candidates. Besides, helping women and athletes does not address the entire problem of imbalance in university access.
The writer is a teacher
Poor students will miss university