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Should we scrap educational requirements for KCCA councilors?

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Added 5th September 2019 03:24 PM

Theoretically, education should have a positive correlation with political performance, as it is likely to shape one’s political values and overall political engagement, especially in a democratic setting.

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Theoretically, education should have a positive correlation with political performance, as it is likely to shape one’s political values and overall political engagement, especially in a democratic setting.

 
By Aida Nattabi
 
Early this year, the Kampala Capital City Authority Amendment Bill 2015 returned to the house for consideration, having been shelved in 2017. It was an amendment to the Kampala Capital City Act 2010 and sought to iron out the contradictions and ambiguities contained in the latter, as well as introduce new laws.
 
Key among the amendments under contention was the introduction of academic qualifications requirements of an A-level certificate or its equivalent for those wishing to stand for councillorship in Kampala City. Previously, under section 6 of the 2010 Act, Ugandan citizenship was the only requirement for one to contest. 
 
The amendment bill was previously debated by the house, and academic qualification requirements for councilors were removed. This has been received with varied reactions, based on reasons that require analysis.
 
Theoretically, education should have a positive correlation with political performance, as it is likely to shape one’s political values and overall political engagement, especially in a democratic setting.  It fosters liberal tendencies, social and political tolerance, accountability and deepens democratic processes further than a tick on the ballot. Naturally, an elected leader should espouse all the above, but is there merit in the saying that leaders are born, not made; or for argument's sake, they are not bred in educational institutions? 
 
Literature shows that education in democratic societies with ‘weak institutions’ can lead to elite capture or ‘institutional capture’, especially where the ‘institutional rules’ are subject to changes in power. KCCA has made several media splashes over the years because of ongoing conflicts between the Mayor, Executive Director and the Minister of Kampala; in short, the elites at City Hall. This has caused gridlock in policy implementation time and again, and poor service delivery.  Furthermore, according to Friedman et al (2011), education can breed dissatisfaction with democratic processes, not to mention ‘extreme political views’ and aggressive mannerisms; similar to physical scuffles we have seen in City Hall and Parliament.
 
Other scholars suggest that while secondary and higher education in developed countries have a positive impact on ‘civic and political interests’, in developing countries like Nigeria and Egypt, primary education had inconclusive outcomes being that the populaces are defined by ethnicity and religion. Yet, imposing academic requirements on councilors could be termed as discrimination based on academic achievements, because it effectively locks out the uneducated/illiterate. Based on the aforementioned, one can argue that when it comes to measuring performance and service delivery by a leader/elected official, education is not an appropriate yardstick or determinant.
 
On the other hand, some have wondered how a councilor with no education or literacy skills can possibly understand the technical underpinnings of motions or bills, let alone the language of communication during sessions. According to the KCCA 2010 Act, Kampala was granted ‘special status’ by Article 5 of the Constitution, and hence its management under the Central Government by proxy of KCCA. Based on this, it should impose higher requirements for Councillors than other districts; otherwise, how does it progress into a global city, if the councillors don’t hold worldly views that are most likely attained in the education system? Education remains an integral ingredient in the process of modernisation and cannot be substituted with innate leadership skills, especially when planning for a major city. If a born leader doesn’t have the right tools, he cannot be effective.
 
Good leadership is not only based on one’s innate ability but rather a cocktail of education, prudence, and political willingness. A bare minimum of the primary education should be demanded, so that there is at least a grasp of English, to allow for uniformity in the communication of policies, motions, and bills, being that the councillors differ in ethnicity and therefore language. Primary school years are very formative and important for language and literacy skills. Not only that, but it has also been found that primary education can enhance ‘civic participation’, advocacy and informed decision making in the long term. Additionally, being that Universal Primary Education was introduced in 1997, this level of education is fairly attainable. The government does itself a disservice by providing universal education, yet forgoes educational requirements in instances such as this.
 
Therefore much as KCCA seeks not to lock out anyone from the councillorship contest, it needs to do some gatekeeping, to have some control over the quality of service delivery and implementation, keeping in mind that Kampala has a special status as the Capital City of Uganda, therefore much is expected.
 
The author is a researcher with the Economic Policy Research Centre, Kampala
 
 
 
 
 
 

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