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Public varsities win big in education budget as the old problems persist 

Later this week, parliament will sit to consider the national budget. This comes a month after the house passed the estimates for various sectors.

MOSES TALEMWA and PRISCA BAIKE have been studying the Ministry of Education, Science Technology and Sports budget for 2016/17, which shows that public universities will take the lion's share of funds, even as sector officials insist that the major focus will remain on early childhood education.

The education sector budget is projected to increase from Shs 2.02 trillion to Shs 2.45 trillion for the coming financial year, according to a report by the house committee responsible for education.

The allocations will see the primary education sector obtaining Shs 1.237 trillion (an increment of Shs 142.38bn from last year), while secondary education sector will get Shs 372bn (increment of Shs 9bn). Vocational institutions will see their allocations reach Shs 257bn from Shs 190bn the previous fiscal year.

However, the biggest jump in allocations is reserved for public universities, which are projected to share out Shs 478bn (up by Shs 184.9bn the previous year). Two major reasons have been advanced by the ministry to explain the big increment in allocation for public universities.

Critics are calling for greater emphasis on primary schools like this one in a Hoima refugee camp to get better learning outcomes

 

According to a ministerial statement to parliament, three new public universities are coming on board (Soroti, Lira, Kabale universities) are coming on board and in addition to Muni, need substantial infrastructural development.

The second reason is the government’s decision to meet the entire payment of university staff salaries. The share of the overall resource envelope is projected to increase on account of registered increments in wage and non-wage finances.

However, commenting on the budget in parliament, Education Minister Jessica Alupo insisted that the major focus of the sector was early chidhood education, where significant investments were anticipated in the new fiscal year.

“We have made progress on improving access to education; now we intend to improve learning outcomes ... and ensure quality learning,” she said.  

But Fred Mwesigye, executive director at the Forum for Education NGOs (Fenu), is not persuaded by the minister’s argument.

“The government has failed to appreciate that the problem is bigger than it looks and has instead prioritised other sectors,” he says. “For instance, the increment doesn’t match inflation.”

Mwesigye adds that longstanding issues in the sector have not been tackled in the ministry budget. 

“They have neglected the tertiary subsector for so long and now they are touching it just a bit,” he says. “We need to emphasise the tertiary subsector so the products of universal primary and secondary education have somewhere to go.”

UNIVERSITIES

Makerere University’s overall budget will increase by Shs 1,493bn with a significant wage increment component of Shs 27.5bn for the enhancement of the university staff salaries. Makerere university’s release budget performed at 49 percent by the end of December 2015 while the development budget underperformed at 28 percent. 

However, promised salary arrears for non-teaching university staff for the FY 2015/16 were not included in the budget. Those will be included in a supplementary budget request to parliament, expected in July.

On the other hand, Busitema University’s proposed overall budget for the FY2016/17 will increase by Shs 6.028bn, largely on account of salary enhancement for the university’s staff.

The committee, however, recommends that universities consider engaging in entrepreneurial ventures that will increase their incomes so that they are increasingly self-sustaining.

LOAN SCHEME

The student loan scheme, through which some students join universities, will see its kitty increase from Shs 451.2bn to Shs 474.4bn. This is because new public universities like Kabale are joining the scheme.

Speaking about the students’ loans budget estimates for the FY 2016/17, Michael Wanyama, the interim executive director, Higher Education Students Financing Board, said that over the years, government has increased its funding towards the students loan scheme.

“Government has advanced Shs 6bn  for a new cohort of students. This amount shall cater for around 1,000 to 2,000 students,” says Wanyama.

The board was able to cover 1,200 students out of the 5,000 applicants. “This year, we had hoped  to support at least 3,000 students out of the 7,000 applications we received,” said Wanyama.

The board has still a funding gap of Shs 587m on its non-wage budget for tracer studies, strategic planning and management while an additional Shs 2,607,000,000 ($709,423.24) is required to clear an outstanding balance on the Integrated Loan Management System (ILMIS) that was installed last year to ease loan application, allocation and reimbursement.

“The system is up and running but we need to clear the balance,” said Wanyama.

NCHE

The National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) has the mandate to ensure provision of quality and relevant higher education. The house committee noted that the council is grossly unfunded, resulting in failure to achieve its core mandate.

Since its establishment, the council has been operating from rented and limited premises of Kyambogo University, which are inadequate to support the recruitment of urgently-needed additional staff.

The Education budget will provide more funding for university staff members like these

Interestingly, the council was allocated over 100 acres of land, a few years ago, but its present situation only allows it a 35 per cent staffing level. The parliamentary committee has since recommended that Shs 2bn be allocated to the council to complete the NCHE office block and recruit more staff to enable it achieve its mandate in addition to being granted vote status in the FY 2016/17 budget.

Over time, the ministry and some of its agencies like the Education Service Commission require funds for land acquisition for the construction of office accommodation. However, the ministry has land in Kyambogo and all that is required is Shs 10bn to construct an office block. That money is yet to be allocated.

TEACHERS’ SACCO FUND

The government has released Shs 12,867,423,557 to the teachers Sacco funds, in the last three financial years. Of this, Shs 9,317,423,557 went to the Microfinance Support Centre, leaving 3,550,000,000 for the Uganda Teachers Savings Credit Coopperative Union (UTSCCU).  

Still, not all teachers are members of the union. So, the house committee has recommended that the Shs 9.3bn be transferred from MSC to UTSCCU and to make it possible for all teachers to benefit from this fund. 

KEY OUTPUTS FY 2015/16

The coming budget will also look at last year’s outcomes. In a bid to exercise their mandate, the education ministry disbursed 337,414 textbooks for primary 5 to 7, as well as 92,800 teacher’s guide books and non-textbook materials for primary 1 and 2.

A further 2,365 head teachers and 260 trainers of trainers were trained in early grade reading under global partnership for education. The sector has also revised the lower secondary curriculum, which as of November, was scheduled to commence implementation in 2017. That date has since been postponed, according to a ministry statement signed by Alupo in March, 2016.

Some 1,276 students were awarded loans, at Shs 5.5m per student through the Students’ Loan Scheme, in addition to top-up allowances to 371 students on scholarships abroad.

Finally, some Shs 50bn was paid for verification certificates for the ongoing construction of Soroti University and facilitation was given to one ministry official to accompany the “She Cranes” national netball team to Netball World Cup in Sydney, Australia in August 2015.

PLANNED OUTPUTS FOR FY 2016/17

According to a statement from the ministry, the sector budget is focused on three outcomes: i) increasing and improving access to quality education; ii) improving the quality and relevance of education at all levels; and iii) improving efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of education services.

The vote function plans to review UPE programme in a bid to provide more support, supervision to enhance provision of quality learning in primary schools. The support will also facilitate the day-to-day activities of the gender unit, including gender working group meetings to support training and disseminate information on menstrual hygiene and equity issues, among other priorities.

HIV/Aids activities in schools will be monitored through coordination meetings to disseminate health( HIV/Aids) policies and guidelines to relevant stake holders.

More funds will be disbursed to benefit the teachers through their Sacco as well as facilitate the District Service Commission to recruit teachers. In line with the adoption of the new lower secondary curriculum, preliminary seminars on the implementation of lower secondary curriculum will be conducted.

The committee tasked the ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development to ensure that all resources appropriated by parliament for the sector are released as planned to ease the sector activities. The sector further acknowledges there is need to streamline its planning and procurement processes so as to execute projects in time.

EMPHASIS ON ECD

Despite the progress in the other areas, Mwesigye argues the greater emphasis should have been placed on early childhood development education due to compeling reasons, embedded in government statistics.

“The census confirmed that 10 million Ugandans are below the age of 30 years, and many of these are illiterate ... so, it does not justify the move to transfer attentions away,” Mwesigye said. “The shift to tertiary does not improve the status quo – it takes us back to where we have been, where only a few can get through the education system.”

TABLE: COMPARISON OF EDUCATION BUDGET FOR 2015/16 AND 2016/17 

Subsector

FY 2015-16  (Shs.bn)

% share

FY 2016-17 (Shs.bn)

% share

Primary

 1,094.63

53.95%

 1,237.01

50.40%

Secondary

 363.63

17.92%

 372.14

15.16%

BTVET

 190.16

9.37%

 257.95

10.51%

Tertiary

 293.29

14.45%

 478.20

19.48%

Others

 87.38

4.31%

 109.32

4.45%

Total

 2,029.08

100.00%

 2,454.61

100.00%

mtalemwa@observer.ug

pbaike@yahoo.com

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