Dr. Mary Gorreti Nakabugo, Executive Director of Uwezo Uganda, an organization dedicated to evaluating and improving learning outcomes for schoolchildren, asserts that Uganda's education system needs a significant boost at the foundational levels where many potential learners are currently struggling.
experts have asked the government to consider allocating more funds to areas
that improve learning at the foundation levels for better returns in the education
The plea came as a
result of a growing concern among educators and policymakers about the
declining quality of education in the country. The experts contend that the
solution to this pressing issue lies in investing substantially in early
Dr. Mary Gorreti
Nakabugo, Executive Director of Uwezo Uganda, an organization dedicated to
evaluating and improving learning outcomes for schoolchildren, asserts that
Uganda's education system needs a significant boost at the foundational levels
where many potential learners are currently struggling.
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The severity of the
issue is underscored by recent findings in a UNICEF report from August 2023.
According to the report, a significant portion of adolescents in Uganda is
falling behind their expected grade levels, emphasizing the immediate need for
improved foundational education. These adolescents, who lack crucial
foundational skills, are at risk of dropping out, encountering educational barriers,
and facing difficulties transitioning into adulthood.
Uganda's 2022 survey, titled "Are Our Children Learning?" reveals
alarming statistics. It indicates that an astonishing 50.7 percent of primary
three students were unable to recognize alphabet letters, classifying them as
non-readers. Furthermore, within the same group, 31.3 percent struggled with
basic numeracy tasks.
Dr. Nakabugo stresses
that these figures should guide the Ministry of Education in allocating funds
to address the issue, emphasizing the potential positive ripple effect this
could have on the education sector.
Gonzaga Kaswarra, an
education consultant, supports Nakabugo's argument, highlighting the critical
problems that exist at the foundational level of education, which are resulting
in a high number of dropouts and a host of other issues. He underscores the
pressing need for government intervention and investment in areas that can
effectively bridge these gaps.
"We are facing a
profoundly critical issue that demands immediate attention. The government must
allocate funds to address the challenges at the foundation levels of
education," Kaswarra asserts. He goes on to elucidate the specific issues
plaguing these foundational levels.
foundational levels, we grapple with multiple challenges, including a lack of
access to schools. Poor infrastructure, characterized by inadequate facilities
and overcrowded classrooms, severely hampers the ability of teachers to provide
personalized attention to students. This, in turn, hinders the learning process
and ultimately leads to lower educational outcomes at that basic level," Kaswarra
underscores the urgency of addressing these fundamental problems to create a
solid educational foundation and ensure that learners at the foundation level are
not left behind or compelled to drop out due to systemic obstacles. According
to data from the Ministry of Education, there is a concerning trend where more
than 60 percent of learners who enroll each year end up dropping out before completing
While the Ministry of
Education has announced a significant allocation of funds to support free
education at primary from FY 2024/2025 to 2027/2028, experts are concerned that
the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development has not prioritized
foundational education as a key area in its planning and financing for the
upcoming 2024/2025 financial year.
Critical on the list
presented by Finance Minister, Matia Kasaijja, is focusing on the promotion of
science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in education research
STEM/STI I education research and development will be emphasized,” Kasaijja
stated during his address at the National Budget Conference.
STEM has consistently
received substantial government funding in recent years, supporting initiatives
like lab construction, teacher resources, student loans, and most recently
increased science teachers’ salaries across educational institutions.
The government is increasing investment in STEM education to foster economic
development, create job opportunities, address global challenges, promote
innovation, and ensure long-term sustainable development, among other benefits.
Nevertheless, some education experts have
offered counsel that while the government continues to invest in STEM fields,
it should not overlook other facets of education.
Dr. Nakabugo contends
that although STEM investment is undeniably essential, it might not yield
significant dividends for Ugandans if the fundamental issues within the
learning process remain unaddressed.
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out...priority for government.”//
Apart from STEM, the
government is planning to allocate resources to develop a comprehensive
national qualification framework, aimed at classifying qualifications at
different levels and promoting interconnectedness in education and training
systems. The government also plans to continue to invest in vocational and
skills training centers, empowering learners with employable skills to meet the
demands of the job market.
The 2024/2025 budget plans
are also expected to emphasize digital systems and resources developed to
support education, such as the Education Management Information System-EMIS and
the Teacher Effectiveness and Learner Achievement- TELA System.
that investing in such tools and systems is a positive development for the
education sector, as it has faced challenges in the realm of data management.
planning in the education sector has lacked a solid foundation of reliable
data, and these systems are now closing that gap. It's a worthwhile area to prioritize
for funding,” he says.
However, Dr. Nakabugo
offers a cautionary perspective. She emphasizes that as these systems are
implemented, the Ministry should actively utilize the generated data for
informed planning. In her view, many government institutions have struggled to
align their planning and budgeting with the available data, and she underscores
the importance of bridging this gap to maximize the benefits of the new
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out...improve the systems.”//
In addition to
emphasizing priority areas, education experts have also stressed the necessity
of increasing the overall education budget. Several reports have indicated a
concerning trend of decreasing funding in the education sector in recent years.
This reduction in funding falls well below the benchmark set by the Dakar
Declaration, which recommends allocating a minimum of 20 percent of the total
annual expenditure for education.