Following the recent debates arising from inconsistencies in the amount of capitation grants sent to Universal Primary Education (UPE) schools, New Vision will over the next weeks be running a series of stories focusing on Capitation Grants
trueFollowing the recent debates arising from inconsistencies in the amount of capitation grants sent to Universal Primary Education (UPE) schools, New Vision will over the next weeks be running a series of stories focusing on Capitation Grants. In the first article, Conan Businge delves into the complicated formula used to compute the grant
Two months ago, the finance and education ministries traded accusations and counter accusations on the number of pupils under the universal primary education (UPE) pupils, as well as the amount of money the Government is paying per pupil. While the Government is supposed to pay sh7,560 as capitation per pupil per annum, the reality is that the amount paid keeps changing, depending on the available resources. This explains why schools receive inconsistent sums.
The commissioner for education planning and policy analysis, Godfrey Dhatemwa, explains that because the amount of money received from the finance ministry keeps varying, they have come up with a formula, where all UPE schools are first given sh150,000 per month for the nine school months. What remains is then distributed out among the UPE pupils.
Assuming there are 10,000 UPE schools with eight million children and sh100b is allocated as the capitation grant in a given financial year. Each of the schools would get sh150,000 multiplied by nine months. That would come to sh13.5b allocated to schools as a fixed grant. The balance of sh86.5b would then be divided among the five million pupils, which comes to sh10,812.5 per pupil per year. This constitutes what is termed as the variable grant. Because the amount is dependent on the budgetary allocation, it implies that it is not about what is enough for each pupil that matters, but the available amount. “The changes in the amount of money released annually and quarterly lead to fluctuations in release to our schools, and this has always led to confusion of how much we are supposed to receive in our respective schools. You can hardly plan with what you do not know,” says a headteacher in one of the city schools under the UPE programme
How did we arrive at sh7,000?
Nobody seems to know how the amount was arrived at. Former education minister Namirembe Bitamazire says UPE was an important government programme that needed to start. She disclosed that the sh7,000 is actually an improvement on the initial capitation grants formula of sh5,000 per pupil per month for P1 to P3, and sh81,000 for pupils in P4 to P7. “We could not give what we did not have,” says Bitamazire. “But we were also sure that it would be enough.
We later changed the criteria, when we noticed there was need for more money for schools (in 2007/08). It was sufficient at the time we allocated it to schools,” Bitamazire explains. The former commissioner for government-aided secondary schools, John Agaba, says when the decision of sh7,000 was being taken, it depended on what was available. Dhatemwa explains that over years, the Government has tried to maintain the sh7,000, which it resolved to allocate each pupil in the 2007/08 financial year.
In July, New Vision ran a series on UPE, which ignited a big debate in the public and Parliament.The state minister for planning, Matia Kasaija, questioned the enrolment figures in Parliament and also admitted that at times the funds available are meagre and cannot meet the planned allocation target. Several schools have, a number of times, also complained that the funds are inadequate for the proper running of the schools. The above findings are corroborated by a 2014 UNESCO report entitled The use and usefulness of school grants; Lessons from Uganda.
The research established that many parents currently believe everything linked to school attendance should be free, including lunch. Despite being illegal under the UPE guidelines, the research team noted that most schools visited were devising means of making parents pay some fees for running the school. The research team observed that the grant depends heavily on donor funding, particularly on resources generated from the debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative that was accorded to Uganda from 1998, by the World Bank/International Monetary Fund.
However, there are several headteachers who are unaware of the difference between the capitation grant allocation criteria set, when UPE was first introduced in 1997 and the revised capitation grant allocation criteria in 2007/2008.
Government: Improving physical infrastructure like classrooms, meet the cost of tuition, provide textbooks and other instructional materials and teacher-training. Parents: Provide scholastic materials (exercise books and pens), uniforms and meals for their children.
Parents are also supposed to provide labour for the construction of teachers’ houses, classrooms, latrines and other school facilities. Local authorities: Ensure that all UPE funds releases reach schools promptly and are used for the intended purposes.
The subcounty chiefs, according to the guidelines, represent the chief administrative officers at the sub-county level, and are supposed to make regular visits to schools, implement local government bye-laws on UPE, and keep records of both pupils and teachers. School management committees: These committees are statutory organs representing the Government at school level and are supposed to give overall direction to the operation of the school.
Note should be taken that there are two school committees, according to the education ministry guidelines, which should be involved in decision-making in schools: school finance committees (SFCs) – made up of the heads of department for each subject, and school management committees, made up of members of the founding body, former pupils, members of the local council, members of the local administration, teachers, and parents. After consulting members of staff to identify school needs, according to the guidelines, members of the SFC meet for several planning meetings to examine and prioritise these needs. School budgets emerge from these meetings, are reviewed and endorsed by the school management committee and then are sent to the education ministry for approval.
No grassroots consultation
Although the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) notes that there was no consultation at the grassroot prior to the policy announcement, its report notes that officials from the education ministry discussed its implementation at a high level among academics and parliamentarians in 1992 before it was approved by the Government. The policy then took five years to be implemented. When it took off, it coincided with the fulfillment of the President’s campaign pledge of free education.
When the Government abolished fees for primary education in 1997, it committed itself to paying for each pupil in UPE schools. Technocrats had proposed sh10,000 per year for each pupil, but the Government did not embrace the idea due to inadequate funds. The Government replaced the school fees with its own funding. Under UPE financing, the Government provides two types of grants — the capitation grants and the school facilities grants — also called capital development grants.
Successes of UPE’s 17 years
- Substantial increment in pupil enrolment from around 2.7 million pupils in 1997 to over eight million pupils in 2014.
- The number of classrooms built increased from 84,628 classrooms in 2002 to 103,186 classrooms in 2014.
- The number of primary school teachers hired has also increased over the years from 113,232 teachers on the payroll in 2002 to 131,310 in 2014.
- lThe gender enrolment gap ratio has also narrowed tremendously with the proportion of girls to boys now at 50:50; up from 44.5 to 55.5 in 1993.
- Large quantities of learning materials have been supplied in schools and reduced the pupil – textbook ratio.
- The Government increased funding of the education sector. The share in the national budget went up from 13.7 percent in 1990 to 24.7 percent in 1998. However, this financial year, the education sector was allocated 11.2% as a share of the national budget down from 13.3% of the previous financial year. This reduction partly explains the budgetary shortfalls for UPE.
Usage of capitation grants
According to the UPE Capitation Grant Implementation Guidelines (May 2007), 50% or sh3,780 of the sh7,560 grant is supposed to be spent on instructional materials. These include chalk, charts, blackboards, pens, reams of papers for examinations etc. Dhatemwa explains that because instructional materials are critical for curriculum delivery, whatever the amount, half of the grant should go towards it.
At least 30% (sh2,268) is meant for co-curricular activities like procurement of sports materials; 15% (sh1,134) for school management, that is, payment for minor maintenance works and to meet the cost of utility bills like telephone, water and electricity. The remaining 5% (sh378) is supposed to meet administrative expenses like refreshment for official visitors, travel and allowances for the head teacher or any staff sent on official duties.
The UNESCO research however, shows that nowadays, there is a greater autonomy on spending the capitation grants, since 2007. The research shows that the new grant guidelines preserve these four categories, but no longer require that the allocations be proportional, leaving the decisions on how much to allocate to each category at the discretion of the district education offices (DEOs), Ministry of Education and schools.
“Encouraged by the new relative independence granted by these guidelines, it appears that in schools where certain school committees were active, initiatives were taken to divide up the funding between the four budget lines as they saw fit. Only a few negative opinions were heard related to this relatively autonomous decisionmaking process,” adds the research.
The UPE Capitation Grant Guidelines 2007 also provide schools with some leeway to transfer funds between activities. The guidelines state that, “The DEO or Municipal Education Officers and headteachers should sit and agree on percentages that fit the situations/reasons of the schools in the area.
Flexibility is acceptable, but should be agreed upon.” However, some municipal officials are always hostile to autonomous spending. UNESCO’s researchers note that their apprehension may be due to the fact that so much leeway complicates their grant monitoring tasks.
The Mysterious UPE Capitation Grant Formula