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2015 will be pivotal in Education

The year 2015 will start on a high, with lots of expectations in the education sector for some of the sector players. Yudaya Nangozi and Moses Talemwa peer into some of the issues that they expect to be the news in 2015.

Higher education

In 2015, we expect that the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) to be very busy, with several new institutions talking their place in the limelight. The NCHE will receive a report on the status of Uganda Technical College Kichwamba, which has already received the stamp of approval for upgrade to a polytechnic. This will make it a degree-granting institution.

Also expected to attain similar status is the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), which recently received its first chancellor, Dr John Kiyaga Nsubuga.

The NCHE is also expected to consider the status of Makerere University Business School, especially to elevate it to a university, up from its current station as an affiliate college of Makerere University. Also on the roster for consideration for a licence are Muni and Teso Universities, respectively.

Kisubi Brothers’ university, which received a provisional licence last year, has also applied to the NCHE for a charter. Kabale University, which last year received a charter from the NCHE, will also be hoping to finally gain status as a public university, the first time the government has taken over control of a privately-started university.

Expected appointments

Uganda Martyrs University in Nkozi will get a new vice chancellor, Fr Dr John Chrysostom Maviiri, later this month. Prof Maviiri replaces the retiring Prof Charles Olweny. He previously taught at the National Major Seminary in Katigondo, arrives with extensive experience from the Kenya-based Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA), where he has been the head over the last nine years.

Observers have a lot of faith in Prof Maviiri, especially after CUEA obtained the coveted International Standard Quality Certification, during his tenure. His main area of research is in remodelling the university for the 21st century. In Mbale, the Islamic University in Uganda (IUIU) is gearing up for the end of Dr Ahmad Sengendo’s tenure later this year. The University will appoint a new rector, later in the year.

The Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb) should also get a new executive secretary with the end of Matthew Bukenya’s 17-year tenure expected in November. A private firm is expected to be appointed to choose his successor, in the early part of the year.

The successful candidates will be presented to the Uneb, which will then propose the winning candidate to the minister for onward appointment. Considerably, Prof Mary Okwakol will preside over the first release of exam results later this month, as chairperson of Uneb.

And with the change in status of several universities and tertiary institutions, one can expect several professors and lecturers to move from one institution to another in the next year. The academics likely to leave their stations include those nearing retirement age at established universities, who may be in demand at new institutions.

Funding dilemma

Public universities will be rubbing their hands with hope this year, following the promise by President Museveni to increase the government subvention from Shs 120bn to Shs 300bn, with lecturers’ pay also revised upwards.

However, the increment is expected to come towards the end of the year, following the reading of the next financial budget. There will also be calls for public universities to seek alternative income and end their entire dependence on tuition fees and government subvention.

Just like the lecturers, the long-suffering secondary school teachers can expect a pay rise, later this year. The government has indicated it will include a 25 per cent increment in pay in the next financial year’s budget. However, questions persist over whether the increment will extend to primary school teachers as well.

The debate over capitation grant will continue to attract the ire of education stakeholders. The ministry of Education and Sports had considered reducing capitation grant for primary schools from Shs 7,000 to Shs 5,000 per pupil per year. However, complaints by MPs compelled the ministry to revise their estimates. Minister Jessica Alupo now says the grant could be increased to Shs 10,000 per pupil in this year.

Alternative income

With the inauguration of two boards, the Makerere University Endowment Board and the Makerere Holdings Company, last year, Makerere could lead the way in seeking alternative funding, by investing in the institution’s idle resources. In December, the Makerere Holdings Company received bids from 11 firms seeking to establish high-end accommodation facilities at Gayaza, Wandegeya and Kololo.

The developments will be made under the Build Operate and Transfer policy, where the university leases its property to the private sector, while maintaining ownership, and later reclaiming management over time.

Makerere is also gearing itself for the establishment of the Mwai Kibaki seat of Economics to be set up in the college of Business and Management Sciences, later this month. Former Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki is an alumnus of Makerere, where he graduated with a first-class BA in Economics in 1955.

Kyambogo University also intends to use some of its 120 acres of land for real estate development. acting vice chancellor, Prof Eli Katunguka, says this will enable Kyambogo generate more funds for the institution in the long run.

Several other tertiary institutions are looking in the same direction, using students’ projects to build hostels and other infrastructure that could be used to collect extra funds to help run the institutions. In 2015, school gardens will also be a critical source of feeding in primary and secondary schools, as a means to cut back on expenditure.

Research and scholarship

The race to get into the international webometrics rankings is expected to heat up the competition for research and scholarship especially at Kyambogo, Mbarara and Makerere universities. In addition to work on modifying vehicles to run on ethanol, researchers at Kyambogo are also looking into new teaching methods for special-needs teachers and agricultural techniques.

At Mbarara, researchers will continue their work on revolutionising public health service delivery in the rural areas. There is also ongoing research into eye care, treatment for HIV, diabetes, and kidney diseases. At Makerere, several breakthroughs are expected in research, agriculture, medicine, engineering and computer science.

Noteworthy is the expected unveiling of the Kayoola solar-powered bus, by the same team behind the Kiira-EV SMACK, the hybrid car, developed by students of Makerere. Two postgraduate students at Makerere are also expected to complete work on a computer application that could make it possible for health workers across the world to share expertise in patient care.

This will become pivotal if implemented even in the most remote health centre. Tertiary institutions are not sleeping in this area. For instance, there are ongoing experiments in affordable building technology and entrepreneurial studies at various colleges, with a view to help graduates run successful businesses.

Study loans

The year 2014 finally saw the launch of the Higher Education Students Financing Scheme, better known as the students’ loan scheme. Some 1,296 students, mainly pursuing science disciplines, applied and were selected to benefit from the scheme. However, with demand for the loans expected to increase in 2015, the government has plans to increase the money available for the scheme from Shs 5bn to at least Shs 10bn, to benefit at least 2,000 students more.

The Higher Education Students’ Financing Board (HESFB) has indicated that they have applied for more money and are awaiting clearance. Education Minister Jessica Alupo also added that the scheme would consider students joining tertiary institutions for diploma courses, especially in the sciences.

However, one can expect that parliamentarians will question the safeguards in place, to ensure that beneficiaries pay back their loan obligations after graduation. The ministry is also expected to begin plans to scale down its state scholarships to public universities, over time. These scholarships will be replaced by the above loan scheme.

More emphasis on infrastructure

The education sector had planned to set aside a huge sum of money to build classrooms, laboratories and teachers’ houses at various levels of institutions, from primary to tertiary colleges. However, delays in disbursing the money meant that some projects did not take off, while problems with procurement put paid to the rest.

The sector will make one more attempt to fulfil this mandate, by allocating more money to infrastructure, before embarking on enhancing teachers’ salaries further, over the next three years.

There will also be increased emphasis on Skilling Uganda this year, following the acquisition of several grants, to be managed by the Business, Technical and Vocational Education and Training department of the ministry.

The Belgian government granted Uganda with Shs 58bn for Kaliro Teachers’ College, Muni University, Abilonino Community Polytechnic Instructors’ Training College in Lira and Mulago Health Tutors’ College. There was a $40m (Shs 108bn) grant from the World Bank, to be disbursed to established technical institutions.

This is in addition to ongoing work in the sector, where the OPEC (Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries) fund disbursed $24m for nine new technical institutions to be built in Amuria, Hoima, Lwengo, Kamuli, Mukono, Namutumba, Nakasongola, Pader and Yumbe.

The Saudi Fund allocated $12m for five new technical institutes in Adjumani, Bukedea, Kyenjojo, Kiboga and Lyantonde. The Islamic Development Bank allocated $13.5m for Uganda Technical College Elgon, Uganda Technical College Lira and National Teachers College Unyama.

The Korean International Cooperation Agency donated $4m for a new technical institute at Nakawa-Ntinda. South Korea gave $25m for technical institutes in Arua, Iganga, Kiryandongo, Mubende and Nyakatale.

The Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) is spending $5m for Nakaseke Technical Institute, while the African Development Bank is spending $10.4m for Jinja Vocational Training Institute and technical institutes in Dokolo, Kabasanda, Madera, and Rukungiri. The Kuwait Fund is spending $12m on Tororo, Kalongo, Kibatsi and Ahmed Seguya Memorial Technical institutes.

Sector 'clashes'

A number of institutions will also be in the news for all the wrong reasons. Kyambogo University will start early. Already, former vice chancellor, Prof Isaiah Omolo Ndiege, forced out of office early last year, recently secured a court injunction to block the search for his successor.

Prof Ndiege contends that he has first rights to be reappointed for a second term of office by Kyambogo’s university council, before any other candidate is considered, as his contract was for one five-year term, renewable for a second. Prof Eli Katunguka has been acting vice chancellor throughout 2014 and is a favourite to take the higher office, once the legal shenanigans are resolved. However, we expect Prof Ndiege to continue fighting for this job.

Up in Soroti, there is an ongoing investigation into the activities of the acting vice chancellor of the budding Teso University, Prof Robert Ikoja-Odong. The acting vice chancellor, with a hitherto unblemished administrative record, is suspected to have sold some of the university land to himself.

He denies any wrongdoing. But Education Minister Jessica Alupo is awaiting the results of the probe to decide his fate. In the meantime, as his contract comes to an end later this year, Prof Ikoja- Odong is anxious to return to Makerere, where he was once the principal of the college of Computing and Information Sciences.

In Mbarara, another land wrangle, also stopped by Alupo last year, is bound to hit the headlines again this year. Some officials in Mbarara University had sought to mortgage some of the university land in Kihumuro, where a new campus is under construction, to pay a Chinese firm to complete the building works there.

The former vice chancellor, Prof Elly Kayanja, opposed the deal, which had the blessing of some of the university council officials. With Prof Kayanja out of the picture, the matter is being reconsidered for presentation to the University Council.

At Makerere University, agitations for the vice chancellor, Prof John Ddumba-Ssentamu, to step down are bound to step up again, after several lecturers and students threatened to sue the university for various injustices allegedly committed against them.

At least two lecturers are planning to sue over their suspension from work, while several students are angry because their names are not on the graduation list, due for publication later this month. Several students are angry that they are routinely made to retake examinations after lecturers fail to locate their scripts.

Ironically the same scripts invariably turn up as paper bags used to wrap cassava and chapattis at various eating places around the campus.

Election year preparations

As the year draws to a close, the Education sector will have its last sector review meeting before the 2016 elections, in September 2015. Sector observers can expect some announcements that will hint at areas of emphasis for the next administration at this meeting.

One expects announcements of salary enhancements for civil servants in the sector, as well as an increment in the number of institutions offering state scholarships.
There is also a proposal already under consideration for the government to build more schools, as opposed to the old process of co-opting privately-started schools. The matter is expected to be introduced for consideration at this year’s sector review meeting.

The state minister for Higher Education, Dr John Chrysostom Muyingo, has hinted at proposals for new state loans for graduates of vocational institutions. It may have been a hint, but in the view of the coming 2016 elections, it may make for serious consideration in September.

Preparations for a new secondary school curriculum will also take a firmer stance in the sector, with new training schedules put up for teachers. More critically, 2015 is the year the sector will consider the achievements made under the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

A sector meeting is planned for May in Inchon, South Korea, where education experts will take stock of achievements. Some papers, set to be presented at the meeting are already hinting seven key strategies to be agreed upon in a subsequent session at the UN General Assembly, with 2030 as the new target date.

The strategies include enhanced support for early childhood education, consolidating the achievements of Universal Primary Education in post- secondary school as well as vocational education.


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