The introduction of Universal Primary Education in 1997 and later Universal Secondary education were steps in the right direction. However, these have quantitive intervations have not fully addressed our historical educational imbalances
By Ismail Lukwago Ntegana
I think all well intentioned Ugandans appreciate that the government has put up a lot infrastructural developments in educational sector. The government together with development partners particularly the World Bank and the African Development have built many classrooms, computer and science laboratories,and some cases schools have been built in areas that did not have schools at all.
The introduction of Universal Primary Education in 1997 and later Universal Secondary education were steps in the right direction. However, these have quantitive intervations have not fully addressed our historical educational imbalances. As usual the recently released examination results show that communities with chronic poverty like Busoga and Karamoja performed poorest.
Girls dropped out of school more than boys and urban schools performed better than rural schools yet majority of our people reside in rural areas meaning many of their children are disadvantaged and may never compete favourably with their cohorts in urban centres.
The level and rate of development of any country is dependent on the quality of her labour force and the current state our education system where half of the number of kids that join primary one cannot complete Primary seven and majority of those that complete in rural areas hardly pass their examinations should be every Ugandan concerned. Our current can achieve vision 2040 if less than 30% of the citizens are only ones to participate in her development. A lot of the potential in rural areas or in poor families is let to waste.
Our education system has been so monetilized and politicized. Quality education has only been made available to the rich and the politically connected individuals in this country! I understand many powerful people today went to public schools which have been destroyed or made restrictive to only the rich and powerful under their watch!
I met a parent who child had scored aggregate 5 and admitted at particular school that required the parent to pay about 2 million shillings before the child would be allowed in class. This poor child wouldn’t join that particular school in favour of some rich parent’s child.
I don’t think all those people who went to Ntare School, Busoga College, Nyakasura , Buddo and others had rich parents then, my mind tells me, these people went to these schools because they were bright students and public education had been made affordable and accessible to them then and that’s why they are the people they are today.
The quality education transformed them. We are going to produce people who qualify to perform particular tasks not because they were most qualifying but because society dynamics made them the most available. Their parents were rich and powerful.
The talented and qualifying ones who parents were poor shall be lost and shall never reach their full potential. This is not sustainable and cannot lead to holistic development. Some communities are to remain chronically poor and dependent on others. Some communities are to produce housemaids and shamba boys for other communities.
The politics of the day has destroyed all public schools. Every area had powerful public primary school that died immediately UPE was introduced. The rich and powerful among us don’t mind this decay because they can avoid private education.
However, private education for the rich should not replace quality public education for all of us. The government stops parents from contributing lunch fees to schools where it pays less than 10,000 and 45,000 for primary kids and secondary school students respectively.
This little money is never released in time and most often schools cannot provide even then basics such as paper and chalk yet these government officials pay millions for their children even in government schools. The teachers who teach in the schools where the children of rich go are paid more in allowances while those in the schools of the power are paid none and we expect the same results!
The Government cannot feed the kids in public schools and has almost stopped the school heads from charging fees from the parents to feed their kids yet these government officials send their kids to schools where they have four meals a day! These kids are expected to write the same examinations which yard stick is used to determine their next fate.
You travel up country and it 9am and kids are still travelling to school where the teachers may also not have arrived yet the children of the rich and powerful are in class by 7am and the teachers are available.
We must as country make the education system work for everyone irrespective of their economic status or family background.
The writer is a lecturer at the International University of East Africa