Uganda Peoples Congress

UPC External Bureau Victoria, British Columbia

Universal Primary Education

A monumental Failure

01 January 2006

Commentary #3

Happy New Year to one and all! This is the first Victoria Bureau commentary in 2006, and we hope it underlines the significance of the subject - EDUCATION.

Of all social service subjects none hurts the pride of Ugandans the way education does. A well educated Ugandan is like a like that shines for the whole world to see. It enables us to articulate issues in international fora in a way that shows quality and dedication. It is impossible to cover-up poorly trained Ugandans, especially when we know they will have to go abroad for higher education. It is this issue, and the fact that industrial development will suffer if Ugandans are not well educated, that we feel the Universal Primary Education program is hurting Uganda not helping it.

Let's look closely at UPE. First it was implemented without appropriate planning. The implementers did not bother to investigate how many teachers were available to teach Ugandan children in primary schools. In addition, the implementers did not bother to establish facts about infrastructure, i.e., class room space, books and other education tools. Rather it was implemented in a manner akin to Idi Amin's methods - a presidential decree. More will be stated on this later.

Secondly, there was more interest in obtaining United Nations and other donor agency moneys to beef up the budget than there was in making sure the money was used appropriately.

Thirdly, there was no management system established in the Ministry of Education to monitor usage of the money, and to ensure that schools applying for the UPE money were legitimate.

Finally, the Ministry of Education grass-roots staff were not consulted to provide input on how the program should be implemented.

There probably many more reasons why the program has turned out to be a monumental failure. What is known for sure is that the following problems are happening on the ground.

  1. UPE classrooms have 100 to 120 pupils all under one teacher. This sort of arrangement makes it difficult for teachers to track the progress of individual students. In addition, the amount of work involved in grading and making the work of pupils is to much for one teacher.
  2. The pressure of the increased enrollment as resulted in recruitment of unqualified teachers. For all intents and purposes, pupils being tutored by such teachers, are better off staying at home and learning to till the land, because, the education they are receiving will only frustrate them and leave them with a feeling of inadequacy.
  3. There are no enclosed or formal classrooms for most of the pupils. Many have to study under mango trees, which makes exposes their curriculum to the vagaries of nature. It is impossible to convene a class when it is raining. Uganda being a country located on the equator receives considerable rainfall, so it is difficult to see how UPE pupils can complete a years curriculum given the frequent rain interruptions.
  4. Teaching materials such as "black" boards, note books, exercise books and pencils are lucking. If the parents of UPE pupils are to poor to afford school fees, are they able to afford the cost of note books and exercise books? How can teachers illustrate arithmetic or alphabet if they have boards to work on?

Recently, a new program was announced. It is called Universal Secondary Education. Once again this program is a presidential decree. We need not guess what will come of this new program. The UPE program has provided a track record to judge USE by.

Ugandans should remember that UPC revolutionized education after we gained independence from Britain. Not only id education in any institution in Uganda become a right of every Ugandan child, new schools were built and well planned programs were put in-place to ensure education success. Ugandans trained during the first UPC government could compete successfully with anyone anywhere in the world.

Some myopic students of that era took the UPC training programs for granted and assumed they could do better. Sorry these are wrong are we have the current system to prove it.

Long live the people of Uganda. Long live Mama Miria Kalule Obote. Long live UPC. We shall overcome!