11 November 2012

Uganda: Did Museveni Send Success Cards to the 'Drowned' Children?


We are in denial. The pretense must stop. We must sound the alarm! Universal primary and secondary education programmes are drowning our children.

This message is for us all, including our president, who, according to the Sunday Vision, sent success cards to the 2012 Primary and Secondary school final exam candidates. Last week, as a reported 565,000 children sat for their Primary Leaving Examinations, 1,200,000 children who started primary education have drowned in the system, never to surface again.

While we must indeed rejoice and pray for those who sat their exams, Uganda must also ask the hard questions: where are the 1,200,000 children? What is their future? We must ask our president, who rightly, according to Sunday Vision, sent success cards to this year's candidates, what 'success' cards he sent to the 1,200,000. We should ask His Excellency the President and the ministry of Education - who, I presume, delivered the 565,000 cards to those who sat their exams last week ? what address they used to send to the 1,200,000, since they are not in school!

Remember the UPE system requires automatic promotion. So, if the 1,200,000 did not sit and since they, together with the 565,000, were 'automatically promoted', I believe the former were simply 'drowned.' I shudder to think where they were drowned: the majority must have sunk in rural Uganda while others did so in the slums of Kampala. This is because, as you may know, the majority of the 565,000 are in private schools and in urban centres of Uganda.

Consider also that no amount of wish or prayer for success for the 565,000, from anyone ? whether an Archbishop, apostle, bishop, pastor, priest and even our President, will enable all the 565,000 to proceed to secondary education next year. If my memory serves me right, only about half will be admitted into our USE system. For, however much anyone declares it 'universal', the truth is that its capacity cannot handle all the 565,000, however hard they have worked.

The hard truth is that our beloved USE and UPE, rather than give hope to the just over a million born into our beloved motherland, have become dangerous stormy waters in which the majority are sure to sink, once they start swimming. So, as we rejoice and pray for the 565,000 who sat their PLE exams last week as well as those who sat O-level exams, let us all do what we must to ensure that in the coming years we are able to positively account for each of the children who start off in our school system.

What needs to be done is simple: Parliament should amend the Education Act to make it compulsory for government together with every parent and guardian who sends a child to primary school to pay enough to ensure that every child has a meal while in school. Remember that one reason the 1,200,000 sank is hunger some 80% of the children in UPE do not have their lunch. Foundation bodies ? churches and mosques ? should awake their flock from the slumber of 'free' education.

Nothing of value is free. Parents, guardians and the government must pay! We all must compel our government to put our taxes to right use. Recover our money from the thieves ? in Prime Ministers Office, ministry of Education, ministry of Public Service, state house, Chogm, Gavi and other departments and/or projects, and invest more in education, improve the terms of service for teachers so that they teach without any worries and ensure that there are enough pit latrines in our schools.

Please remember that our girls ? the daughters of our land - are the ones who drown most in our school system, because as soon as puberty sets in, the terrible conditions of sanitation in schools disqualifies them!

We must all, including our president, stop pretending: the majority of our children in UPE and USE are not learning and no amount of prayer and wish for success will take them anywhere. It is time to act to save our children from continuing to sink farther into the stormy and mucky waters of UPE and USE!

The author is the former Assistant Bishop of Kampala Diocese

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