Dos & Don’ts of Social Activism in Uganda

I cannot remember hearing of the term “Social Justice” before 5 years ago. It seems to be one of those ‘newer’ terms that have been made popular by the things that are happening in society. Or the growing awareness of the injustices that we face today.

Because of that I went to great lengths to talk to a gentleman who has made fighting for social justice a way of Life in Kampala.

Masake Anthony works at Chapter Four Uganda, a Ugandan civil liberties group. He describes himself as a seasoned human rights defender and social justice advocate. I met with him to have a conversation on social justice in Uganda – find some excerpts below.

Why did you choose social justice instead of commercial law or something more profitable?

I am a passionate defender of rights. This comes with identifying with a certain value system; a system that speaks to social justice. Social justice embodies principles of equity, diversity, inclusion, and respect of human dignity – the need for fair and just relation between individual and society.

Regardless of someone’s profession, a person who really cares about these values will care about the need for social justice.As a human rights defender, I find myself engaging in the core activities of promoting social justice through my human rights work. Social justice and human rights are so intrinsically interwoven that you cannot talk about one,without the other.

Social justice is important to all of us – whether engaging in for-profit or not-for-profit activities. This is why we now have an increasing call for profit-oriented businesses to respect human rights and work towards promotion of equality. It is only through continuous championing of social justice that we can have sustainable and prosperous communities. There can be no diversity and meaningful peace without promoting principles of social justice.

Social Justice is not a term that you and I grew up hearing about – What changed? Why do we have it as a household name?

Nothing much has changed. To appreciate this, there is need to delve into what social justice really means – beyond the term. At the core of the foundation of social justice are several principles that have for long, been part of our communities.Certain principles such as the respect for life, the respect for principles of rights and responsibilities, spirit for championing the common good and solidarity, dignity of work and the right of workers to earn a living, have always been part of our communities.

Whereas it may be argued that the situation may be way better today, there is no doubt, these are values that our cultures and customs acknowledged long before the wide spread of social justice and human rights terms. At its foundation, it is not a western phenomenon.

This explains why we have arguments of whether to accept social justice in its original form or to subject it to the local context. Whatever one’s opinion, there is no doubt there are certain universal values that are non-negotiable because we are all humans, first – principles such as respect for the right to life and human dignity.

What are the most vivid memories of your work with Social Justice and why?

The most vivid memories that I have experienced in my work involve securing the freedom of people after their arrests, often on frivolous charges, and supporting them have equal access to justice despite of their disadvantaged position. Personal liberty, just like other rights, is viewed as universal and yet they are the world of the individual person. Forget about the world; obtaining justice is so personal. It is always humbling to secure freedom of my clients –something I have done for over 8 years now.

However, the freedom never washes away the concern of what they and their families have to endure at the hands of an arbitrary process. To have meaningful social justice, in this context, our criminal justice system has to develop to respect human dignity of all people. One should only be arrested when there is a prima facie case against them. We have to stop the repeated arrested that lead to no meaningful prosecution, that ultimately delivers no justice.

As a lawyer – what are the parts of the law of Uganda that every social justice activist needs to know?

A social justice activist needs to familiarize him or herself with Chapter Four of the Constitution of Uganda. That is our bill of rights. It is difficult to be an effective social justice advocate without being an empowered human rights defender. The values that one has to defend to promote social justice are so fundamental to human rights.

The experiences of some of the world’s largest social justice movements – struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, campaign to end slave trade, and the Civil Rights Movement in the early 1960s in the United States – prove this.

Human rights principles are critical in demanding that every man, woman and child accesses equal justice, equal resources, equal opportunities, and equal dignity, without discrimination. This is the only way to challenge inequalities,exploitation, and violence to enhance the quality of life for all in pursuit of social justice.

As an activist: if one gets caught up with police for one reason or the other – what should they do?

They need to know their rights, responsibilities and what a police office can or cannot do.

The specific rights they are supposed to know include the right to ask a police officer to identify him/herself, right to remain silent after introducing yourself,right to be informed reason for the arrest, right to a lawyer, right to make a phone call to any person, right to be treated humanely without torture or degrading treatment, right to access medical help if necessary, right to disclose to anyone where you are being detained, right to apply for police bond, right to read through and make corrections to your statement before signing, and right not to be paraded before the media for news purposes.

Masake Anthony a seasoned human rights defender and social justice advocate with Chapter Four Uganda
Masake Anthony a seasoned human rights defender and social justice advocate with Chapter Four Uganda

Your responsibilities include the need to remain calm and polite to an officer,not to obstruct the police if they are engaging in lawful acts, give police your identity details even if your lawyer is not present, not to resist arrest, call your lawyer, read statements before signing them, and duty to complain to your lawyer, magistrate or a human rights defender if any of your rights are violated.

That is quite a mouthful: Is that all?

It is also important to note that whereas a police officer has the right to restrict, arrest or detain you with reason, they do not have the power to use threats or force to obtain a statement from you, forcefully parade you to the media for news purposes, threaten/assault or treat you in a degrading way,take anything from you without acknowledging it, detain you in a place not gazetted as a safe detention area, and demand a bribe in return for a service e.g. for police bond.

Most important, do not forget to contact your lawyer or human rights organisation such as the Uganda Human Rights Commission or Chapter Four Uganda in case any of your rights are violated. Efforts to bring perpetrators to account start with you filing a complaint.

What does your day as a Social Justice advocate look like?

It typically starts with a quick glance through the local dailies and periodic monitoring of other news channels such as social media networks and radios throughout the day for media reports of injustices – as you can imagine, I sadly come across that a lot these days. I also take time to analyze research reports and review patterns of injustices to identify common patterns of abuses for strategic public interest litigation. Strategic litigation provides an opportunity to avert wide scale injustices that can happen in one strategic case.

The obvious question: what are the challenges of the job?

Impunity and corruption often present challenges in efforts to ensuring access to justice for all. High-income inequality further exposes many people to abuse and other challenges associated with attaining social justice, a call that is beyond just successful legal intervention.

Mr Anthony Masake works with Chapter Four Uganda, a civil rights watchdog.

You can Follow Masake Anthony on Twitter:

A tasking education for the nation’s child

Heading out to work on a field-day, driven on the Kabale – Kisoro high way far off in the South West, I sat by the window of the double cabin every morning so I could do the usual; think my life through and wonder how I got myself to a particular point in my life that I happened to be reminiscing on that morning. There was however a constant sight I didn’t miss; the little girls and boys in blue shaggy and faded uniforms walking barefoot in a single file on the side of the high way as they knew to be the safest way to get to school, lest they get run down by a crazy driver at those sharp turns on the hills.

The thing that caught my attention was that every day the children carried brooms and others, the older ones, hoes to school. As my daily assignment was to visit as many schools as possible, I took the opportunity to inquire from one teacher in one of the schools about it, and he said that the children were required to carry brooms for general cleaning and the hoes so that they could dig and till the school land as part of the afternoon program; it is from that land that they would grow some of the food they feed the children.

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I felt my heart sink a little lower. In that moment, I started to think about the children back in Bweyogerere, a Kampala suburb where I live, who get to be picked up by buses to school and never have to carry along with them a broom or a hoe because one child pays school fees enough to educate 10 others of the ones I saw every morning along the high way. But of course, one is poverty stricken and can only depend on the questionable government initiatives, while the other has got it all together.

Poverty is definitely a longer story for another day, but I believe that Uganda can do much better in educating its poor children. That at least a rather comfortable education can be afforded to these children so that we are rid of the shortfalls of illiteracy in the future of the nation.

With billions of dollars given to the education sector every Financial year; my focus is really on primary education where school begins, that actually spends about 54% of the Education budget, at least according to FY 2015/16 which allocated approximately 1,095bn, you agree that it’s probably not much, but that for starters, the children can be afforded a meal at school and not have to dig in their free time when they should be taking the chance to play and just be children, because these same ones come from homes where they have to follow their parents to the garden to do just the same, sometimes before they head out to school.

On top of having to go through imposed child labor at school, they are most likely to miss a couple of lessons because their teachers won’t show, or they just simply lost enthusiasm about going to class. In a recent visit to a Kamwokya KCCA school, one of the counselors and founder of a sponsorship program sadly expressed to me that “…the kids no longer want to come to school, because they see no reason why; they have little or no inspiration. They fall out and end up not doing their PLE…” Children (pupils), I found out, are quickly affected by their surroundings, and so they will either be eager to learn or hate their school experience altogether. This definitely affects their general performance.

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Primary 1-7 pupils in Arua gather for an assembly in a dialogue on hygiene and good morals. Photo/Karen Ihimbazwe

We clearly have a problem, and it needs no introduction; although in a report by the New Vision, the minister of Education and Sports highlighted in her speech at the 23rd annual education and sports sector review workshop saying…
“…I can honestly dare say that the largest giant of a challenge we have today is indiscipline and selfishness that make people misappropriate the resources meant for Government work which we will now have to fight and try to plug those holes so that all the resources we get in our budget serve the purposes of this sector…”

And with that, we can only do so much as citizens to implore that these fights indeed be fought so that the nation’s children are afforded a normal education that could change their stories and give them a chance to celebrate knowledge in the wake of their dreams.

Education Sector’s Lost Children

A huge percentage of those who will read this blog are people who were lucky enough to be selected to go to the schools, they applied to and if they weren’t too keen on going to government schools that required to get selected, they had the financial means to afford a private school.

For some 81,000 pupils who sat Primary Leaving Examinations, the future is unknown, for some that will be the end of the Education route for them. Why? They were ungraded or government’s subtle way of saying they are the lot that constitutes the failure statistics. Four years from now when the over, 500,000 pupils who made it to secondary sit for S.4, we will lose almost 40,000 students to Education oblivion if this year’s Uganda Certificate of Education results is anything to go by.

If you resort to cumulative math to see the picture of how many children just disappear in the Education system, the figures are astounding. But year in, year out, we sing the praises of those who pass and bother not with those who need the national attention more.

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In an interview with education expert and Secretary General of Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU), James Tweheyo decried the lack of government interventions to track the “lost system children”. According to Tweheyo, it’s really up to the parents to send these children back to school, and since most of these “lost system children” are from rural areas, for most failure is usually end of the road, with these children picking up manual jobs like selling bananas on Kampala streets, working as house helps in our homes, shamba boys, boda-boda cyclists and some fall into the trap of early marriages as one of their next best options.

At the recent release of the 2016 UCE exams results from Uganda National Examinations Board Executive Secretary Dan Nokrach, observed the high failure rates of 13.2%, saying it was a cause for worry. He outlined a couple of challenges that are contributors to the failure rates, but the biggest issue, he said, was teachers deserting teaching and instead of preparing children to cram for examinations.

Some students, he added seemed under prepared and weren’t able to interpret questions adequately. Of course, these problems were more rampant in the Universal Primary and Secondary schools which are mainly in rural areas and cater for the majorly poor Ugandans.

Dr. Muyingo Chrystosom the Minister of state for Education, also explained that the problem was teachers were spreading themselves thin, neglecting their government appointed schools and instead focusing most of their time part timing in Private schools. A practice, his counterpart Rose Mary Sseninde warns will get teachers struck off the payroll.

A few teachers I spoke, who agreed to be interviewed on the condition of anonymity, pointed the finger back at the government. The teachers all unanimously agreed on remuneration in the education is still lacking, and even with the arguments that there have been increments, they argue it’s not enough especially if you have a family of your own to cater for and children to educate. And since gov’t seemingly has it’s ‘hands tied’, the teachers say they then opt to make more time for private schools that will take them. And of course, it’s no guess who suffers as a consequence of this neglect.

The teachers also point out that UPE schools have a student’s ratio that is alarming giving an example of Kotido where the ratio is 1:92, there is no time to dedicate to every and work on their weak areas as is done in private schools. This coupled with government’s policy to let every child be promoted to the next class despite their various inadequacies is what the teachers say is manifested in the high failure rates at PLE and UCE. 

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But for me, that is not the issue, as government points fingers at the teachers , and frustrated teachers neglect their role to earn a living elsewhere , we are churning out more children on the streets, who hawk bananas that people in their air conditioned cars won’t buy, and soon enough they become pickpockets .

For others, they will become house help who get horrible pay and before you know it they are mistreating the children they take care of. There needs to be investment beyond UPE and USE, investment in ensuring that those forced out of the system because the government and responsible stakeholders don’t care enough are tracked, put back in school. In any case, it’s the people’s taxes catering for these children and as such, our taxes in the least need to be put to good use.

Photos By Badru Katumba, Freelance Photographer

Health sector continues to suffer as budget dwindles

Now that the budget period is upon us, there is a lot of talk about what is important or not for Uganda’s economy. Oil as it is, comes high on Uganda’s development agenda for the years to come, a magic wand of sorts to all our problems, they’ve said. In fact, the President, Yoweri Museveni reiterated this stance during his speech on 26th January 2017, when he said, all Ministerial budgets would be cut by a whopping 10% until the oil leaves the ground.

Sadly, this encompasses vital sectors of the economy, the health sector inclusive. From the look of things, it has already started as the sector budget has been cut drastically. The sector is considered one of the priority areas for achieving middle income status, however, in my humble opinion, if it is not adequately funded, it is not a priority. The priorities; energy and mineral development and the works and transport sector can be seen as they are an exception to the budget reduction decree, registering increases.

According to the Budget framework paper, the allocation for 2017/18 is projected at UGX 1,285 billion, UGX 568 billion (30%) less of the 2016/17 allocation of UGX 1,853 billion.

The allocation is also UGX 963 billion short of the Second National Development Plan (NDP) target of UGX 2,221 billion for the third year. As a percentage of the overall national budget, the 2017/18 sector budget is 5.7% which is 9.3% short of the 15% prescribed by the Abuja Declaration on health that Uganda is signatory to.

A quick analysis of the budget also shows a reduction in the development budget of the sector and non-wage recurrent while the wage recurrent remains constant at UGX 378 billion.

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Reduction in the budget notwithstanding, more and more Ugandans are demanding health services, primarily attributed to the exploding population as a result of one of the highest fertility rates in the world. Isn’t it ironic then that this sector is expected to play a part in the development agenda given the well-known repercussions of under investment?

The ills that plague the health sector, are therefore far from over. Among others, the Primary Health Care (PHC) component of health that is dependent mainly on donor financing will continue to suffer as funding reduces, the doctor-patient ratio that currently stands at 1:24000 will remain the same or even worsen because no more medical practitioners will be hired given the stagnant wage bill. Retention of the staff is also going to hit a snag because,already, public health workers are demanding for better pay or their arrears.

Since the development budget has reduced, many Ugandans will continue to travel miles to find the nearest health center as we have to be frugal with the available resources. This is before we even tackle drug stock outs in public health facilities, forcing many to fork out thousands of shillings they do not have, to pay for health services. This creates a never ending cycle that feeds into an even broader array of ills that are detrimental to the progress of the system.

While overall funding is facing problems, there is another facade within the inner workings of the sector termed as ‘unfunded priorities’. In simple terms, these are critical areas in the sector that will not be funded due to the unavailability of funds. The sector in 2016/17 had a number of unfunded priorities, inclusive but not limited to ARVs for new enrollments,construction of a radiotherapy bunker, staffing gaps e.t.c. Ironically what was budgeted for adequately were trips abroad, welfare and entertainment, agricultural supplies, procurement of medical supplies which by the way is not their mandate and other items of a miniature nature.

Some of the aforementioned items reappear in 2017/18 causing the Parliamentary Committee on the Budget in their report on the NBFP to recommend additional funds to salvage the situation.

Human capital development has been cited as one of the propellers of socio-economic growth. And a functional health sector is vital for healthy and productive population to see it through. Unless concerted efforts are made towards overhauling the Uganda’s health sector,many will not live to see the development we are supposedly heading towards.

Free medical services in Uganda are expensive

Anyone who has had a toothache will tell you it is the worst kind of pain they have ever felt.

They will tell you it hurts in the most obscene way and all solutions involve a dentist. They will tell you how uncomfortable the dentist’s chair is, and how minutes seem like days in that dreaded chair.

What they will not tell you is the dent that visit will cause in their wallets.

A tooth extraction procedure ranges between UGX 30,000 to UGX 120,000 in most dental
clinics in Kampala. You will be fortunate to find a good dentist. He will make you feel comfortable, present all your options, explain the risks involved and assure you that this is a common, low risk procedure. He will answer all your questions, offer you leaflets on proper dental care and introduce you to dental floss.

But what happens when you have that mind numbing toothache but do not have access a dentist? When you are one of the multitudes waiting in line at a public health facility to see one dentist who may or may not be of any help?

For most, this is a hypothetical question, but for the 19.7% of the Ugandan population living below the poverty line, this is reality.

In a recent visit to Kawaala health centre III, I was saddened to find that the only dental filling machine is quickly depreciating because it has not been used in a very long time. This is not because the people of Kawempe division do not have cavities, but because the centre does not have filling materials. Continue reading “Free medical services in Uganda are expensive”

Who will heal Uganda’s sick health sector?

We as Ugandans disagree on a lot of things. Be it political or socio-economic but if there is one thing all Ugandans considered to be the right thinking members of the society by the majority should agree on, is that Uganda’s health sector has gone to the dogs or the dogs have come to the health sector.

Even though we are considered to be most entrepreneurial country in the world and the world’s top destination for tourism, we still see and read stories about patients sleeping on the floor in wards, hospital buildings being in a sorry state and money meant for drugs disappearing through thin air.

Here is the real situation on ground;

In Uganda, one in every 200 births ends the mother’s life, around 1.5 million people are living with HIV and although malaria accounts for 14% of all deaths, less than 10% of children under five are sleeping under insecticide-treated nets. Health statistics published by NationMaster.com indicates that in Uganda there are 0.08 physicians per 1,000 people (the average is 1.7).

To crown this up, Uganda’s healthcare performance is ranked as one of the worst in the world by the World Health Organisation. We’re ranked 186th out of 191 nations!

Now unless you’re a witch doctor who will laugh all the way to the back of his or her shrine to count money after coning an illiterate who thinks that their ‘prescriptions’ solve their current health issues, there is nothing to smile about.

A patient lies on the verandah at Kawala Health Center 111 waiting to see a health worker.
A patient lies on the veranda at Kawala Health Center 111 waiting to see a health worker.

There is nothing to smile about because it’s the poor who lose out the more. The health system today is structured in such a way that the rich and politicians go to exclusive private hospitals (that’s if an all-expenses paid medical trip to India or Europe is not available which in most case it is available) and clinics whereas the poor, who are the majority (and the taxpayers and voters), have no choice but put up with the wretched government facilities.

The truth is, the poor are paying the price for corruption.

By paying taxes, it is ordinary Ugandans who are meeting the costs of what’s supposed to be free maternity (and medical) services. After paying taxes, because of the collapse of public health services, ordinary Ugandans have to go back into their pockets to pay private (and surprisingly public)  health facilities for these services. Despite collection of taxes, because of corruption, public health services are denied to those who can’t afford then. Because of corruption, expectant mothers continue to lose their lives in public hospitals.

We seem or even actually abandoned our commitment to the sector. The Gallup World Poll last year showed how sub-Saharan Africans believe they are inferior compared to their counterparts across the globe and the feeling is mutual when it comes to the quality of the health care they receive.

Less than a fifth of African governments have met the Abuja Declaration pledge of spending at least 15 per cent of their budgets on health. The global donor community has continued to plug the funding gaps. However, most recent data show that official development assistance for health plateaued between 2010 and 2013 before dropping between 2013 and 2014.

Back home, The 2017/2018 Budget Framework Paper proposes a 5.7 per cent allocation towards financing the health sector. This is lower than the 8.9 per cent which was allocated to the sector in the 2016/2017 national budget. What the hell?

In order to improve Uganda’s health services, we urgently need to strengthen its structures, processes and outcomes. One way to do this would be through the incorporation of performance management tools and best practices from the private sector elsewhere, usually more adept than governments at managing huge and dispersed workforces.

And this is achievable. For example a balanced scorecard was made by experts over two decades ago to help private enterprises monitor operational performance and guide company strategy. Ethiopia is using it as a monitoring and evaluation tool for it’s health sector and it seems not to be looking back.

 

Conclusively, if we must urgently find smart ways of increasing the efficiency and accountable public health system in Uganda, we have to strengthen and monitor its structures, processes and outcomes. By structure, I mean stable, material characteristics (infrastructure, tools, technology) and the resources of the organizations that provide care and the financing of care (levels of funding, staffing, payment schemes, incentives).

 

By process, I mean  the interaction between caregivers and patients during which structural inputs from the health care system are transformed into health outcomes and lastly, the  outcomes can be measured in terms of health status, deaths, or disability-adjusted life years—a measure that encompasses the morbidity and mortality of patients or groups of patients.

If we don’t do that, we won’t heal the health sector.

The Burden of falling sick in Uganda

I remember September last year as the time I got so sick, threw up all night and drained my account to get back on my feet. As a freelancer, my health was my greatest resource. It was mumps, to be precise. I went to see a doctor who prescribed painkillers because mumps is a viral infection. That night, I was sure the drugs he had prescribed were not working because I puked all night, I couldn’t wait for morning to break and run to the next clinic.

To see a doctor, I had to pay consultation fees of 20,000 Uganda shillings even though I knew what I was suffering from. I did a series of blood tests and it turned out that this time, I had a bacterial infection. The medicine cost about UGX 60,000 and the laboratory tests went for about UGX 100,000.

For the second time, I was up all night, throwing up.

I woke up very early the next morning to see the same doctor, who recommended I take pregnancy tests. I obliged even though I was sure that I hadn’t done anything to necessitate a pregnancy test. I was desperate. I told the doctor that all I wanted was to stop the puking because it was draining the life out of me. She gave me a series of injections and antibiotics.

Slowly, life returned.

I had no medical insurance but I drained my account to get back to my feet. This little money afforded me these choices.

But think about a person in Kawaala, whose hope is vested in a government health facility. She is one of the 600 patients that see a doctor at Kawaala Health Centre. She queues all day for many days, but may still fail to see a Doctor.

Unfortunately, the government has cut the health sector budget for the Financial Year 2017/18 by 541.5 billion Uganda Shillings. There is no ray of hope at the end of this tunnel.

You would imagine that after 60 years of independence, Uganda’s health care system would be at a better place than it is today but instead, the system is in shambles. Such a system is an enemy of the people. It robs the country of productive people that lose time in queues and sends people to their graves a little too early.

In my opinion, there needs to be a healthcare plan for the poor, the old, unemployed and the underemployed. There needs to be a deliberate move to introduce an insurance scheme for every Ugandan and above all, the government has to dedicate a sizable amount of money to the health sector.

 

Forlorn Education

Nearly two decades ago when the all-so-wonderful Government of Uganda was introducing Universal Primary Education (UPE) it seemed apparent that the days of illiteracy and a massive young unlearned population were coming to an end. The four-children-study-free project kicked off with a lot of gusto. Celebrations were held countrywide and it was generally agreed that this was absolute progress; steady at that.


A few rural parents were displeased and up in arms against it, complaining that their fields would now not have anyone to till them and they would not have little errand running minions to help them around the house.

Despite that, Ugandans embraced the initiative. Most of them did because the President and his people went around the country spreading the gospel of UPE and they all seemed rather well intentioned. It was a good time.

Several years down the road, it seems like the UPE dream has either been shattered or somewhat shoved into a certain dark and lonely alley being watched over by the devil. The Government seems to either have abandoned the whole idea or simply left it to rot. Surprisingly though, there is even the concept of Universal Secondary Education (USE) which deserves a whole rant of its own. The Government appears to have quietly thrown in the towel, knowing full well that the majority of Uganda’s population is young and requires some form of direction and guidance.

Before this is seen as another of those worthless yet venomous rants targeted at the Government’s inability to deliver, allow me express my own thankfulness to the Government for somewhat showing where its priorities are. For starters it seems like the Government will continue to throw money (if any at all) at the UPE issue without necessarily identifying where the problem is.

Despite nearly $302m that the Government spends annually on primary education, close to a whopping 70% of these youngsters are likely to somehow drop out along the way. Either because they can not afford the hidden costs involved with uniform and scholastic materials or because they are simply girls and having monthly periods while in school can be a real challenge, especially if there are no sanitary pads.

 

Students in their first year of primary school line up to have their work examined by a teacher at Acutomer primary school in Pader district, Uganda. Photograph: Ric Francis/Zuma/Alamy (Image Source : The Guardian)
Students in their first year of primary school line up to have their work examined by a teacher at Acutomer primary school in Pader district, Uganda. Photograph: Ric Francis/Zuma/Alamy (Image Source : The Guardian)

 

 

An article by Alon Mwesigwa in the The Guardian somewhat brought to light harsh realities about UPE. For instance, while crossing over from 2014 to 2015, Irene Namusuubo Guloba, the head teacher at Katwe Primary School admitted that nearly 250 children did not come back to school in the new year. And this is in Katwe, which is within Kampala, presumably the better place to live, work and study in.

One then wonders what the predicament might be like for the upcountry schools. The schools in places where parents have to decide whether to send their children to school, or keep them home to help till the land and look after animals. One wonders whether this UPE thing is actually still functional or whether it is simply a ghost program draining the coffers every other financial year.

It seems more apparent that Education is now a luxury for the wealthy and well off individuals who themselves have accepted that if one does not have at least UGX 1M, they may as well shove their ideas of educating their little ones somewhere dark and inaccessible.

Messages have been doing the rounds on social media regarding the amounts of money that today’s parents have to pay to secure a good education for their children. It is safe to say that perhaps not having children is a worthwhile plan of action since the whole experience is simply going to rip your hopes and dreams to shreds and render your children a burden to the nation. And while it can be appreciated that these schools need these funds to operate, one wonders where we are headed to.

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A screen shot of the figures it takes to have your child attend Gayaza High School, one of the better schools in the country.

 

While having a discussion with a few friends recently, a Government apologist asked the question “Do you people know how many things the Government has to deal with at once? You are making noise about UPE and Education but you are oblivious of the fact that the same Government has to deal with dissatisfied health workers, rioting market vendors, insecure neighbourhoods, corrupt Government officials and incomplete roads and infrastructure. Are you people aware?”

I, like most sane people, do appreciate that the Government has so many things to deal with at once. However, I worry for the future generation because if we do not pay attention to education, we may as well forget about anything and everything else because we will raise an illiterate, ignorant and completely helpless population.

Do I have a legitimate list of recommendations for the way forward? Maybe not as thorough a list as experts in the field of education would have. However, I do know that if we do not pay attention to the education of the young people, we are probably going to regret this in not so many years from now.

The Government needs to wake up and start prioritizing education before the situation becomes toxic and irredeemable. Either we rethink the entire education system and syllabus or we sit back and watch while the system continuously segregates the poor and relegates them to apathy,  desolation and impoverishment.
This article was curated from the Beewol blog.