Warning: Trying to access array offset on value of type bool in /usr/www/users/urnnet/a/story.php on line 43
Experts Call for Foundation Learning Funding :: Uganda Radionetwork

Experts Call for Foundation Learning Funding

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.
26 Sep 2023 15:54
Dr Mary Gorreti Nakabugo, Executive Director Uwezo Uganda

Audio 3

Education 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 sector.

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 education.

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.

//Cue in; “We need to... Cue out...is mandatory.”//

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.

Likewise, Uwezo 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.

"At the 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 points out.

His perspective 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 primary seven.

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 and development.

“Promotion of 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.

//Cue in; “So for me... Cue 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.

Kaswarra believes 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.

"For years, 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 systems.

//Cue in; “The starting point... Cue 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.