EDITORâ€”In an attempt to promote the girl childâ€™s education in Uganda, the Government decided to award an additional 1.5 points to girls seeking to join public universities. The rationale for this was that boys were favoured to study at the expense of
Whereas boys went to school and revised their books, girls would be kept at home doing household chores, with the result that the boys had an advantage over them. This was reflected in dismal performance of the latter in examinations. The 1.5 points therefore, came in as a relief to the girls for the time spent doing housework while the boys read their books.
Further, there were arguments that brilliant but poor girls were unable to access university education and so the 1.5 points were necessary to help them attain government scholarship.
The debate leading to the adoption of this policy indicates that it was fundamentally intended to benefit the poor girls and those in rural areas. Unfortunately, no mechanism was put in place to ensure this. The policy has been a huge success. The girl intake in public universities is at about 47% today.
But one problem has come to lightâ€”the primary concern of the 1.5 points has not been met! It is girls from rich and able families that are instead benefiting from it!
This negates the rationale for the existence of this policy for three reasons. First, rich parents hire house-servants who do the domestic work such that their daughters cannot plead that housework consumes their revision time. They have as much time as their male counterparts.
Second, these parents are in position to afford higher education, so the justification of poverty cannot come to their aid. Third, the rich girls are able to attend â€˜first worldâ€™ schools where they have access to the best scholastic materials unlike their rural counterparts.
In a system where university entry is determined by academic excellence, they end up landing government sponsorship in place of the intended under- privileged poor and rural girls.
Consequently, the 1.5 points policy has achieved its direct opposite and has ended up promoting injustice.
As Prof David Bakibinga has said, today boys of equal socio-economic standing as their female counterparts have been victimised by it.
When a boy and girl score the same marks, the girl is admitted but the boy is left out. Sometimes, the boy scores slightly higher than the girl but because that mark is not strong enough to out-compete the 1.5, he will be left out. This policy is threatening to wipe the boy child off the academic map. For example, at Makerere Universityâ€™s faculty of law, girls constitute 67% of the students! It now appears that Government is â€˜revengingâ€™ against men on womenâ€™s behalf for past social and cultural gender misconstructions.
Therefore, this policy should be revisited with the view of harmonising it with its primary purpose. If this cannot happen, then it should be scrapped.
In the meantime, it should be suspended because it undermines competition and fair play which are essential in any education system.
This policy was meant to give women a head start but not to help them win the race. It offends against man and God who created us equal. It has lost its relevance.
Brian B. Byaraguma
No more excuses for free marks!