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Uganda asked to supervise education sector more closely

Pupils of Nakasero primary school during computer lessons

Percentage of Private Enrolment at Primary and Secondary Level - 2003 -2013

The United Nations has asked the government to assume more supervision of private schools in the country to ensure the provision of quality education for all children. The call came during an international conference to review the country’s performance on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva, Switzerland between June 10 and 11, 2015.

The conference was concerned that the government had licensed the private sector to start schools but was doing little to support their existence. Several speakers said parents had been forced to pursue expensive private education, due to the declining quality in public schools.

According to a statement issued at the end of the conference, Uganda was tasked to deal with “the widening of the gap in access to quality education resulting from the increase in the provision of private education and disproportionately affecting girls and children of low-income families”. This arose from concerns that the high tuition fees charged by private schools would finally eliminate students from low-income families.

Uganda was also asked to deal with the limited inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream schools, absence of targeted training to teachers, and the high expenses associated with enrolling these children in schools for children with special needs leading to their dropout”.

Uganda’s delegation to the conference was led by state minister for the Elderly and Disability Affairs, Sulaiman Madada. The minister made both written and oral submissions. He was accompanied by local and international civil society organizations including the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER).

Over the years, ISER has been conducting research on the impact of privatization on the right to education in Uganda, and submitted a report to the UN committee. In their report, ISER cited the education ministry statistics, which showed that the percentage of students in private schools had risen dramatically over the years. The rise was more marked in secondary than primary schools.

The private schools and institutions department was inaugurated in 2008 within the ministry of Education and Sports to support the growing private investment following the liberalisation that opened the education sector to private investors.

“Currently, 27 per cent of schools at primary level and 66 percent of schools at secondary level are private. As of 2013, the private school enrolment as a percentage of total enrolment was 16.2 per cent and 51.0 per cent at primary and secondary levels, respectively,” reads part of the ISER report.

Madada did his best to explain that Uganda was moving towards achieving targets set earlier, to provide quality education, among other rights.“The ministry has had a big share of the national budget in the FY2014/15 amounting to 13.7%.

This is projected to increase in the next financial year. The projection for 2015/16 shows that universal primary education will be increased from Shs 50.12bn to Shs 68.54bn indicating an increase of Shs 18.42bn. Universal secondary education will rise from Shs 108.02bn to Shs 129.51bn, indicating an increase of Shs 21.49bn,” he said.

He admitted that there were problems in the sector, including high school dropout rates and low transition rate of pupils from primary to secondary level, especially among girls mainly attributed to early marriage, teenage pregnancy, and excessive housework.

“On education, the national policy is that there is a government secondary school in every sub-county and a universal primary school in every parish. The northern and eastern regions of Uganda [already] benefit from this arrangement,” Madada explained.

The minister was charged with asking the education sector to “develop and effectively implement plans aimed at combating school dropout, in particular among girls, and provide the necessary support services for pregnant adolescents to enable them to continue their education”.

In general, the government has the task of allocating sufficient resources to the education sector with a view to improving infrastructure of schools including sanitation, working conditions of teachers, and teaching materials; strengthening regulations and expanding monitoring and oversight mechanisms for private education institutions.

The sector is also required to make urgent measures to ensure inclusive education of children with disabilities, including through compulsory training of teachers (beyond special education teachers), and barrier-free physical access to schools and their facilities.”

In its 19-page report, ISER raised some of the same problems, including deteriorating quality of education in public schools, hidden costs, as well as the lack of motivation and absenteeism of teachers that may be related to low salaries, and outdated teaching materials.

ISER’s senior programme officer Saphina Nakulima, said that the recommendations were in line with the recent report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Kishore Singh who stated that “inequalities in opportunities for education will be exacerbated by the growth of unregulated private providers of education…”

ISER added its voice to the UN, urging the government to take concrete and targeted steps to address the concerns raised, with a view to improving the quality of education for all children.

 

Year

% of private enrolment

 (Primary)

% of private enrolment

(Secondary)

2003

10.21

50.8

2004

8.92

46.57

2005

8.33

43.98

2006

9.3

39.61

2007

10.1

41

2008

14

52.8

2009

13.4

54

2010

14.4

52.2

2011

13.1

46.7

2012

15

47.4

2013

16.2

51

 


mtalemwa@observer.ug

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