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Opinion: President Museveni has given up on the UPE, should the public do the same?

St. Kitzo Primary School, Kabarole

President Yoweri Museveni has implored parents who are financially sound to give their children a better education to guarantee a better future even it means taking them to Private schools” (NTV Uganda, 04.03.2018).

The pledges of yesterday is losing value for President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the process and the service delivery doesn’t matter, if it ever did. The Universal Primary Education was one of the brilliant moves he did and also got much more donor funding in the beginning of his Presidency. He introduced UPE in January 1997, as the time went the Government of Uganda invested more into the schools. As the Overseas Development Institute in February 2006, which stated: “The UPE programme has required a significant increase in public expenditure devoted to primary education. Total education expenditure increased from 2.1% GDP in 1995 to 4.8% of GDP in 2000, while the share of the education sector in the national budget increased from 13.7% in 1990 to 24.7% in 1998” (ODI – Policy Brief 10, Feb 2006). So the DFID sponsored brief are really explaining how the National Resistance Movement and President Museveni really used funds into the schools to make it happen. However, down the line the investments hasn’t continued and the progress of the policy has lost value. Since they have not continued or hold into that standard.

The President clarified that parents should feed their children and those who can’t afford should take their children to Universal Education Schools which he insisted should not charge fees, while the capable ones can pay in private schools or ‘big government schools’. “Universal Education Schools should not charge fees and parents must provide a meal for their children, called ‘entanda’. Government has provided UPE and USE for poor parents and here it is free. Those who can afford can take their children to other government schools and private schools where they pay but no child should be withdrawn from school” he emphasized” (Opio, 2018).

When you hear the man who is the leader, whose been the President since 1986, been there 32 years. Saying if you want to give your kid a good education, send them to private schools. The ones who are poor can send their kids to government schools. Therefore, if you have money, you will care more about the future for your kids. Because we as a state has given up the Universal Primary Schools.

This financial year the state is using 10,87 % of the national budget in 2018/19, that is down 11,37% in 2017/18. Both years are really proving how little it is concerning how it was when the UPE was booming around the millennium. In those years the state used about 20% or more on Education. Meaning the means to build and upgrade schools where there, also for more staff and more equipment was there. This has been forgotten and deemed unnecessary by the state.

Already in 2006, the UBOS Statistical abstract stated this: “However, the education facilities including classrooms, teachers’ houses and libraries have not matched the upsurge in the number of pupils. In 2004, provision of classroom space remained an enormous challenge. Table 2.2.2 shows that, only about half of the pupils had adequate sitting space” (UBOS, 2006). So the problems we are seeing today, is systemic from the mushrooming of schools and districts who built-up schools after the announcement of the UPE in 1997. I am not saying it is easy to keep the upkeep after the surge of schools, but if the state wanted them as a priority. They would have allocated funds to it over time.

Clearly, that part has gotten wasted and the state hasn’t figured out that buildings needs upkeep, schools needs equipment and teachers needs salaries. I know all of that seems basic, but the deep understanding of that seems lost somewhere.

Since if you are seeing the numbers, the Education Ministry got 24,7% in 1998 and now in 2018 it get’s 10,87 % of the National Budget. The schools has surged then and the budget is smaller, that meaning the more schools and teachers are getting significantly less funds for their operations. This is clearly the will of the state, as they are prioritizing other parts of government and not the schools. So the pledge before the 1996 Election is now being abandoned, the Ten Point Program point is being dismissed and the State showing disregard for its own system, as the rich can have their own. The poor can have lesser quality and the ones who care about their future can got to the private ones. Because of this I want to go back to 1996, because it says a lot, about why its like this today.

So, we are not going back to 1986 today, but 1996, when this happen:

Given his earlier opposition to the idea, President Museveni’s decision in March 1996 to make universal primary education part of his manifesto for the upcoming presidential election campaign represented a sharp break with existing policy. In a radio speech delivered on 27 March, Museveni promised that, if re-elected, he would implement a plan giving four children per family access to free primary education (the plan would also apply to orphans) (Radio Uganda 27.3.1996). This education promise was, however, just one part of an overall election manifesto that included pledges concerning liberalisation of the economy, road building, defence, and renewed East African cooperation. In fact, improvement in education was listed as only the fifth of seven bullet points on the back of Museveni’s

published manifesto (Museveni 1996). Though free primary education was only one small part of President Museveni’s initial election manifesto, during the course of the campaign it soon became clear that the promise to abolish school fees was striking a chord with the electorate. Ugandan officials from the period recall that several of Museveni’s close advisors repeatedly sent messages to the Ministry of Finance after campaign meetings in order to emphasise how the UPE promise had been well received” (Stasavage, 2006).

We could see it was his own initiative, as the President knew what would strike a chord, making sure the kids was educated and had a better future. The same resonates today, but the state has forgotten that. They are not caring, they build a giant program, a big school system of Primary Schools, but not allocated or planned the upkeep of them. That is why the state of the schools are going down and the level of poor public schools is rampant. The districts and sub-counties are not getting enough to keep the schools in functions or even the buildings up. That is why we can find pictures of schools falling apart and looking like they we’re forgotten the day after they finished building it.

From a report from the Ministry of Education and Sports in 1999 said this: “Uganda spent only US$8 per pupil in the early 1980s, and in financial year 1997/98 US$32.50 was spent per pupil” (…) “ UPE is one of the surest means that will lead Uganda to the attainment of the Jomtien Conference (1990) pledge of providing basic education to our primary school going population. As we provide that ìminimum package of knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes required by every person to enable him or her live as an independent, productive and effective citizen in a societyî the individual is empowered to meet her or his daily needs and aspirations, those of the community and the nation, which are focused on modernisation. Uganda is confident that by the target year 2003, Universal Primary Education will have been achieved for all its children” (Ministry of Education and Sports, P: 19, 21, 1999).

So in 1999, the State was hopeful, today in 2018, UPE is not for all children. Not if you listens to the words and the statement from Museveni. It’s Private Schools for the wealthy and the UPE for the POOR. Therefore, Museveni is claiming to classes and two system, which is really demeaning to the ones going to the UPE schools. This is his fault that the schools are bad. He introduced the system, he made it and built it. However, he forgot to the upkeep. He forgot the pledges of the past, even the goals of his own ministry in 1999. It is nearly 20 years since or 19 years ago. Therefore, if Museveni has forgotten it is natural, I don’t remember what I wrote a year ago. However, he promised this and used his Presidency to promote this. The UPE is one of the few grand achievements of Museveni. Even I can say that. But now its rotting and that is because the State has stopped funding it. It is their own decisions not upgrading or even maintenance of the buildings. It is weird that the NRM went into this, build this giant school program and had no plans for maintenance of the Schools or the Salaries of the teachers.

It is easy to start something, but when it continues, you needs to allocate, secure and also funds for day-to-day business. That is forgotten and today, Museveni has given it up. If not he doesn’t care about the UPE he introduced officially in 1997 and pledged during the 1996 Campaign. I say that because, well they have gone from using over 20% of the yearly budget in the 1998 to around 2000, but now the state has allocated as little as 10%. So it the Primary Schools are neglected, because the State has decided to neglect them. It is because the state has built a lot of them, but not funds to maintenance of them. Museveni knows this, but doesn’t say it. That is why the schools are for the poor, because the President even keeps the Government Primary Schools poor themselves.

I just have to ask the President, you used years and your time in the beginning of your time as President to build up the Universal Primary Education, have you officially given it up? Should the Ugandan population give it up too?

If you I can put the whole situation into one simple explanation: Museveni wanted to give the public a giant castle, he pledged to give the public that giant castle. He actually built the giant caste and made sure the public could use the castle. However, with time he didn’t have the funds or the money to maintain the castle. The walls and barricades are failing, the walls are weaker, the structure needs fixing. The servants, the people who are inside the castle are not getting paid and even educated to keep the walls steady. So, the stones and the building are looking more like a ghost-town than a castle. Museveni could have had a castle, instead he has a rundown ghost-town.

There are too many UPE schools that are rundown without proper buildings, which has been neglected. The same has the teachers and the pupils, who them all are living through it. Their future is depending on it and they are forgotten. Now the President tells, the ones who can afford it should go to the Private Schools instead. The poor has enough with the UPE schools. That just shows how he has given up the 1990s project.

Isn’t this a sign that you as a leader should have retired, since you have actually given up one of your achievements?

Peace.

Reference:

Opio, Sam Caleb – ‘I’m going to fulfil all my outstanding pledges – Museveni’ (04.03.2018) link: http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/I-am-going-fulfill-all-my-outstanding-pledges-Museveni/688334-4327940-view-printVersion-27vqxt/index.html

Stasavage, David – ‘The role of democracy in Uganda’s move to universal primary education’ (2005) Cambridge University Press

Ministry of Education and Sports – ‘THE UGANDAN EXPERIENCE OF UNIVERSAL PRIMARY EDUCATION (UPE)’ (July 1999).

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