President Museveni has expressed his disappointment over the continued charging of extra fees by school authorities in Universal Primary Education (UPE) and Universal Secondary Education (USE) programmes.
He attributed the increasing school drop in the country to the illegal introduction of extra fees by school authorities in UPE and USE schools. He asked these schools to cease charging students extra fees as it's causing a significant increase in school drop outs within the country.
Museveni's message was delivered by Vice President Jessica Alupo during the national commemoration of the 2023 World Population Day.
The event which was organised by the National Population Council took place in Alebtong district under the theme "Prioritize Education: Prevent and Improve Household Incomes".
Museveni emphasised the importance of education and the need to prioritise it for all.
"The NRM introduced these programmes to help the poor families to educate their children. It is therefore unacceptable for school authorities to continue charging extra fees," he said.
Museveni unequivocally stated that these additional fees keep children out of school, jeopardizing their future prospects.
He stressed that education is essential for the population to be educated, highly skilled, and healthy, enabling them to embrace modernity and contribute to the country's development.
"Teachers and parents should help the young people to select courses in the science field. The mismatch between the education system and the job market in the private sector accounts for the high rate of unemployment among the young people," he said.
Adult literacy rates have soared from 43% in 1986 to an impressive 75% today, marking a phenomenal achievement.
However, the president noted the need to address the skills gap in the education system, which predominantly focuses on white-collar jobs.
President Museveni emphasised the importance of aligning university and tertiary courses with the demands of the private sector, which serves as the country's largest employer.
He highlighted the need for appropriate policies and infrastructure to facilitate profitable investments in commercial agriculture, industries, services, and ICT. While public service jobs are limited, the president reminded the audience that the liberalisation of the educational sector has led to expanded access to education through private entities. Once the skills gap is addressed, youth unemployment can be significantly minimized.
"Its capacity to create employment opportunities is vast and unlimited especially in a country like Uganda which calls for the right policies and infrastructure to guarantee the profitability of investment for business enterprises," he said.
With Uganda's population growing from 14 million people in 1986 to 48 million now, President Museveni acknowledged the positive impact of universal primary education and universal secondary education programmes.
The Minister of Planning, Amos Lugloobi, urged for an end to child marriages and teenage pregnancies, arguing that poverty and tradition underlie these problems, and that children must be able to complete their schooling if Uganda is to develop
The literacy rate in Uganda has witnessed remarkable improvement, rising from 70.2% in 2012 to 79% in 2021.
"Ministry of Finance is fully committed to the government hatching the goal of achieving social economic transformation for the benefit of Ugandans," he said.
Professor Fred Wabwire Mangeni, the Chairperson of the National Population Council, underscored the need to address the drivers of school dropouts, including child marriage and teenage pregnancies.
He said child marriage acts as a significant barrier to girls' education, limiting their mobility, decision-making power, and ability to contribute to society.
He said it also exposes young girls to health risks such as HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections.
"Education emerges as a powerful tool to prevent child marriage and teenage pregnancies, empowering young girls to shape their own futures," he said.
He praised the government's efforts in fostering the acquisition of relevant skills and technological advancements among the youth in the county.
He recommended that parents prioritize vocational and technical education for both genders, as it can help secure livelihoods and bring Uganda's youthful populace into a competitive advantage for further development.
Since 1989, Uganda has been celebrating World Population Day. This annual event serves as a forum to raise critical awareness, galvanise commitment and support from various stakeholders, including government leadership, civil society, professionals among others.