Education is the best legacy a country can give her citizens. This is because education is a right that should be accorded to all human beings. Likewise, education improves the development of any society, hence the need for educated people to play a key role in improving society at large.
The Government of Uganda introduced Universal Primary Education (UPE) and Universal Secondary Education (USE) in 1997 and 2007 respectively. The UPE scheme was established with the aim of eliminating monetary costs for all children attending public primary schools. The major objective of the programme is eradicating high illiteracy in Uganda while equipping every individual with basic skills and knowledge with which to exploit the environment for both self and national development.
Uganda became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to introduce USE in 2007, 10 years after the introduction of UPE, according to the state of Uganda Population Report 2015. The report notes that UPE and USE have expanded access to primary and secondary education. For instance, from 1997 to 2013, primary enrolment increased from 2.5 million to 8.5 million pupils, while secondary enrolment increased from 954,328 in 2007 to 1.4 million in 2013 (Ministry of Education and Sports, 2013).
This enrolment trend is significant because education is one of the key tools to improve the lives, especially of the very poor. It is one of the most influential determinants of an individual’s knowledge, attitudes, and behaviour. Various studies show that educating women produces positive outcomes not only for themselves, but also for their children. The children of educated mothers are more likely to be educated as opposed to children of uneducated mothers.
It is worth noting that education is the primary tool for poverty reduction, development of a society’s stock of human capital and socio-economic transformation. In recent times, many developing countries have embarked on significant education reforms, catalysed by changes in the global economy, demographic change, a need for a more efficient use of scarce public funds given competing priorities, and findings emerging from academic research on economic growth, returns to education, and user fees, among other factors.
The reforms are mainly aimed at achieving equity in the provision of education and significantly improving the quality of education. Some of the implemented reforms have radically transformed budget priorities of many developing countries, changed the approach that governments use to provide education services, invigorated public-private partnerships, and introduced new systems of accountability.
On the other hand, the international community has made education a priority on the development agenda through a number of initiatives such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which reaffirm the international community’s commitment to Universal Primary Education. The state population report states that easing some of the financing constraints encountered by poor households through elimination of user fees at primary level, improving access to high quality secondary schools, and enhancing the quality of schools through facilitation of inspection and construction of classrooms, the UPE and USE programmes have significantly benefited children from poor households.
The two programmes have expanded access to education. The [Uganda Population Report] shows that enrolment in tertiary education has grown steadily, total enrolment moved from 54,444 in 2000 to 184,864 in 2012. More males access tertiary education than females, the trend is however, upward in both gender groups. Also, the tertiary education system in Uganda is not equipped to absorb the growing demand that has resulted from broader access to secondary education created by the USE programme.
It is anticipated that as many students complete upper secondary education, policy makers should expect more pressure to expand the tertiary education system in order to meet the rising demand. The tertiary institutions in Uganda include both degree and non-degree awarding institutions of different categories.
The report further indicates that total enrolments of 201,376 students (113,746 males and 87,630 females) were registered from all tertiary institutions across the country in 2013. Only 42 per cent of students enrolled in degree-awarding universities were female. Today, under the leadership of the NRM government, the country’s literacy levels have improved from 43 per cent in 1986 to 75 per cent 2015.
The author is the head of broadcast and print communications, office of the national chairman – NRM.