The ministry of Education and Sports has today embarked on a two-day review workshop of its activities for FY 2018/19 covering the period between July 2018 and June 30, 2019.
Participants will then agree on the priorities for the coming FY 2020/21. Dubbed the 26th Education and Sports Sector Review (ESSR), it is held under the theme "Enhancing Learning Achievements for Productivity and Prosperity."
Speaking at the opening of the review workshop at Hotel Africana today, Education minister also First Lady Janet Museveni, said: "The theme requires participants to be on the lookout for what changes must be done in order to see real development of relevant skills and dispositions required to address the ever-changing global technological advancements and prepare our learners for productive and gainful employment."
The review is being attended by members of parliament, permanent secretaries, heads of government departments and agencies, representatives of education development partners, teachers and local government leaders, among others. Ms Museveni implored participants to participate effectively in the review discussions to identify implementation bottlenecks and high-level priorities for implementation in FY 2020/21.
"If we are to transform education for the Ugandan children and enhance learning achievements for productivity and prosperity, I must appeal to all our stakeholders to understand, appreciate and play their roles and responsibilities," Ms Museveni said.
"The only way to get our people to know their roles as parents and citizens of this country is to continue to mobilize them and give them the right messages. Taking for granted that everybody knows their role is missing a fundamental point."
She added: "I appeal to you all to love your country enough to feel compelled to do your very best and to provide well trained human capital for the realization of our Vision 2040."
In her opening remarks, the US ambassador to Uganda, Deborah Malac, said quality education is the greatest investment that any country can make for its citizens. However, due to a combination of factors including low levels of learning achievement, high drop-out rates and underinvestment in the sector - Uganda's children receive only the equivalent of four to five years of education in the seven-year primary cycle.
"Currently, one out of three children who make it to primary seven are not literate at the primary two level, and 15 per cent of the children who survive primary seven are not able to do simple arithmetic," Malac said.
She added that addressing immediate and long-term challenges and increasing financing to at least average levels for the East Africa region is crucial for Uganda's future. Uganda's public expenditure on education has declined from 15 per cent in 2012 to 10 per cent in 2018. She believes that aligning public education financing to the level of 2012 at 15 per cent by 2025 would result into an additional $1.6 billion, enough to close the financing gap.
Malac commended government for "strong policy and regulatory frameworks" to respond to some of the education challenge with special reference to the recently approved teacher policy and the technical, vocational education and training policy.
"What we need now, is to move from policy to action. Implementation needs to focus on coordinated approaches that align investments to established targets," she said.
Ms Museveni explained that the National Teacher Policy will go a long way in enhancing professionalism of the teaching profession and its management; promoting efficient and effective recruitment, deployment and integrity of the teachers while the TVET policy has now placed skills development in the realm of the private sector/employers as they take over 60 per cent of the representation on the proposed TVET council.
Ministry of Education permanent secretary, Alex Kakooza, said this 26th review is meant to present sector performance against set goals, objectives and targets as well as receive feedback from stakeholders on the sector.
He shared the Education and Sports Sector Performance Report (ESSAPR) for the 2018/19 financial year detailing the legal and policy developments, budget performance, sub-sector performance, challenges and way forward.
"The budget release performance (excluding external financing) for FY 2018/19 showed an overall sector approved budget of Shs 2,444.23bn with a corresponding budget release, translating into an overall release performance of 102.26 per cent," Kakooza said.
He, however, said the Education ministry is still challenged with inadequate infrastructure, laboratories, teachers houses, sports facilities and staff that would help improve the quality of education across the country. He cited public universities where a number of them are operating with only about 40 per cent staff capacity.
In the FY 2018/19, the Education Service Commission (ESC) confirmed at least 827 teachers in service against a set target of 1,500 representing 55 per cent performance. The ESC further validated only 394 appointments of personnel in the service against a set target of 2,000 translating into a minimal performance.
Deputy chairperson of ESC, Dr Violet Kajubiri, said the commission has found it difficult to find physical education teachers.
"Physical education is as important as mental. We won't know why people are not interested in this position but there's an idea that physical education can be taught by anybody," Kajubiri said.
Kakooza said the sector will continue to recruit staff on a replacement basis for headquarters and also across the sub-sectors but also recruit new staff when the wage becomes available. Meanwhile, at primary level, the pupil to book ratio improved from five to one in FY 2017/18 to four to one in FY 2018/19 with 13,841 textbooks procured for 242 secondary schools.
While participants commended government on the availability of textbooks and reading materials, they called for construction of libraries in its schools.
They argued that the risk of leaving books in the hands of learners from time to time is too high. The national secretary for the Federation of Non-state Education Insitutions (FNEI), Patrick Kaboyo, urged the ministry to consider a policy on the provision of education in private education institutions.
He said many private schools evade taxes yet parents continue to shoulder the burden hefty school fees and endless requirements.
"There are institutions which could present as not for profit yet they are for profit. We need to catch those who are procrastinating their status. The safety and security of students in terms of infrastructure should also continue to be looked into by the ministry through this policy," Kaboyo said.