25 June 2018

Uganda: Will More Funding Solve Issues in Education?

Out of the Shs32.7 trillion budget for the 2018/19 Financial Year, Education ministry was allocated Shs2.8 trillion to spend on respective activities, including recruiting 5,000 science and English language teachers, among others.

Finance minister, Matia Kasaija, mentioned during the budget reading on June 14 that in the next financial year, some of the priority areas will be providing instructional materials and constructing secondary schools in sub-counties where they do not exist. Part of the plan also includes advancing loans to 1,000 undergraduates and 200 diploma students admitted in the academic year 2018/2019.

However, Alex Kakooza, the Education ministry permanent secretary, says although the allocation is a boost, the sector still continues to face a number of challenges. "We still need to improve the quality of education (for instance) there are gaps in the human resource area. Teachers require training and re-tooling at all levels," he says. In an earlier interview with Daily Monitor, Kakooza had also noted that there is concern that more than 50 per cent of the allocations will go to wages.

"Salaries will take Shs1.59 trillion. That is huge. Just imagine if your company was paying salaries more than it earns. It would collapse," Kakooza said.

In April, Daily Monitor reported that the Ministry of Education and Sports had warned that if the ministry's budget was not boosted, it was going to be quite difficult to deliver quality education. The ministry pointed out that 16 of its departments had experienced huge budget cuts, for instance, the NCDC and Directorate of Education Standards (DES), whose budgets were reduced by a half from Shs4.9b and Shs2.9b to Shs2b and Shs1.4b respectively.

But Dr Grace Baguma, the executive director National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC), says this increment is a step in the right direction. "I am happy about the raise and at NCDC, we shall work with what was accorded to us," Dr Baguma says. The NCDC is responsible for the development of educational curricula for primary, secondary and tertiary institutions in the country.

More is needed

Some education players such as Filbert Baguma, the Uganda National Teacher's Union (UNATU) secretary general, however, think that the allocated funds are still not enough for the sector. "Despite the increment, the money is still inadequate to cater for the vital needs of the entire education system right from pre-primary to university.

That is why we are still grappling with a number of issues, including inadequate staffing of tutors, teachers and lecturers," Baguma says, adding, "It is still unfortunate that even those who are already working continue to earn a meagre salary."

Baguma also notes that it is for the same reason the education sector does not have substantively appointed head teachers and deputies in some schools. In the event where resources are minimal, Baguma says it is very important to prioritise. In addition, he says it is also important that proper planning is done, especially for technical institutions.

"I have never understood why planners prefer to build these institutes in villages where there are no learners, yet, if they were strategically built for instance in urban settings, they would register a number of students and the resources would not go to waste," he says.

Skeptical

To some teachers, the increment is but nothing unusual and task the ministry to ensure every player benefits. For instance Brenda Akello, a teacher, says there is nothing to be excited about since she is a least beneficiary.

"I am still working under the same conditions I was five years ago. My salary has not changed. I might still earn Shs400,000, yet, I am a single mother of two children," Akello says, adding, "Whenever a request for an increment comes up, I am reminded that there is no money."

Akello says the budget allocation is to her only a formality and proposes that the ministry finds a way of ensuring that every player in the sector benefits.

Prioritise

Patrick Kaboyo, an education expert and national secretary for the Federation of Non-State Education Institutions (Fenei), an umbrella organisation for all private education institutions in Uganda, says the greatest part of the budget is consumed by the recurrent expenditure whereby money is continuously used to pay salaries and other expenses that are not directly impacting on development.

"For example, you find that the Education ministry pays rent for more than four buildings, yet the money could instead be used to handle development gaps in the ministry such as building the ministry a home," Kaboyo says.

Further, Kaboyo adds, "the budget brings a dimension of programme-based budgeting where we expect to see clear outcomes from the output, but, if one is keen enough, at the end of the financial year, we shall hear the same usual stories of poor performance in examinations, teacher absenteeism as well as failure to monitor and failure of schools."

The educationist suggests that the loan schemes board receives the biggest share from the budget as it is mandated to give loans to students from poor families who have the capability and interest to study but lack the means and resources.

Priority areas

Shs1.59t. Proposed money to go to salaries

Shs22b. 100 grant-aided secondary schools

Shs15b. Proposed for sports

Shs10b. Turning Mountains of the Moon, Busoga University and Gulu University Constituent College in Karamoja into public universities.

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