By Stephen Twinoburyo
When a frog lives in a bucket and it’s thrown into a swimming pool, it’s easy to convince it that it’s living the best life ever and should forever be grateful.
If it finds other frogs, it’ll be difficult to convince them that they can actually live better in their natural dam nearby but the proprietor is keeping them in the pool so as to harvest fish in the dam – and show other animals that these frogs are living a superb life.
When by a matter of chance, I started looking at Ugandan stats recently, I was horrified to find that much as we have moved from a bucket to a pool, we are doing badly – even in the region.
The graphs below show the number of people living below $1.25 as well as the poverty gap at $1.25.
The trend shows a worsening situation – i.e more people living under $1,25 while the rate of reduction of the poverty gap has almost come to a stop.
It appears as if Ugandans have been lied to in various ways and we’ve swallowed everything that has been thrown at us. For instance, along we’ve been told that Universal Primary Education (UPE) was the creation of NRM. This is however a UN project across many countries and Uganda has not managed its part well. UPE is the second goal of the UN Millennium Development Goals that was aimed at “ensuring that by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike would be able to complete a full course of primary schooling. Of course this target has been missed. According to the Global Competitiveness Report of 2015-16, out of 140 countries, we are number 88 in the primary education enrolment rate and number 113 in the quality of our primary education.
The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) estimated that 68% of children in Uganda who enrol in primary school are likely to drop out before finishing the prescribed seven years. Last year it was reported that since 1997, the government had not revised the amount of money it paid to educate a child annually, which stood at 7,560 shillings. A 2012 study found that in primary seven, two out of 10 pupils could not read a primary two-level story. This is compounded by the low salaries paid to teachers.
In 2007, Uganda became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to introduce universal secondary education (USE), a very commendable step. At the time, a UN report said Africa had the worst secondary school enrolment rates in the world. Only 34% of secondary school-age children were enrolled in class.
It’s the management of USE that has been our problem.
According to the 2014-15 Global Competitiveness report, our secondary school enrolment rate stood at 27.6% putting us at number 138 out of 144 countries and at number 132 out of 144 in the quality of education.
A year later, the 2015-16 Global Competitiveness report put our secondary school enrolment rate at 26.9%, showing a drop to 138 out of 140 countries (only Mozambique and Chad were worse than us), while the quality of education dropped to 133. Note: Note: only 133 countries were recorded in this section and we were last. On a scale of 1 – 7, with 7 being the best, we scored a 1.
Some of the challenges USE faces are inadequate teaching space and materials, improper teaching infrastructure, a shortage of properly trained or knowledgeable teachers, a poor quality education, low pupil achievement, and inadequate and late disbursement of government funds. Of course there is also corruption and red-tape. As such, standards have fallen. However, it remains an important development if only it can be well managed.
When I was in Uganda recently, I was happy that we no longer in the tiny waters of the bucket and were now in the sparkling blue waters of the pool. Having subsequently looked at the bigger picture, I’m now convinced that the pool is not where we should be.