October 12, 2016

Uganda’s growth facilitating a society of the haves and have-nots

Education and health play a pivotal role in producing a quality human resource for any given country, which in turn accelerates the country’s socio-economic development. Uganda’s efforts over the years to invest in the two sectors cannot go unappreciated. The development of primary education in low-income countries, contributes the most to national income growth according to a January 2015 publication of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) titled “The investment case for education and equity”. The report notes that 10 additional percentage points in the primary enrolment rate is associated with an increase of between 0.2 and 0.3 percentage points in GDP per capita annual income growth (in real terms). As a result of the income effects of education, poverty rates decline with each level of education, particularly for primary education.

Article 29 of The Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Uganda is party, is emphatic on an education directed to developing the child’s abilities to their fullest potential and preparing them for responsible life. The State’s Constitutional obligation to provide access to education for its citizens is clear under Articles 30 and 34(2). The Education Act, 2008 interprets basic education to mean the minimum educational package of learning made available to each citizen through phases of formal primary education and non-formal education system to enable them become useful persons in society. 

To compound the situation, the significant increase in primary enrollment rates following the introduction of the Universal Primary Education (UPE) has not necessarily translated into substantial improvements in educational outcomes. In fact the trends according to the 2015 UBOS Statistical Abstract show that the completion rate fell as more children were enrolled in school. For instance in 2011, pupils who enrolled for Primary Leaving Examinations were 532,631 yet those who sat were 514,916 while 627,343 enrolled in 2014 but 585,620 sat for the exams.

The health sector is not any better and can best be described by the words of State House’s Director of Medicines and Health Service Delivery Monitoring Unit, Dr. Diana Atwine while addressing the Parliamentary Health Committee in April 2015, pinning the health Ministry for all the rot in the country’s health sector, “The issue is not lack of money or even facilities, it is the uncoordinated activities, negligence and wastage in the system. We are the problem,” Dr. Atwine said as she presented evidence from a countrywide tour she conducted in 2015 to the effect that Uganda’s health sector is characterized by negligence, corruption and absenteeism among medical officers, giving of expired drugs to patients, shoddy works and quack doctors, misuse of equipment, among other things.

These two sectors do not yield much yet with the amount of resources so far invested in them the country ought to have achieved a lot more than it has. The ineffectuality of these public institutions has frustrated any hope of the much needed healthy competition between the public and private sector which would promote growth and creativity inter alia but also keep in check the would-be exploitation of the people. 

Sadly, the Ugandan situation currently is that the profit-oriented private sector has been allowed monopoly of quality in education and health. This has given rise to the growing trend in Uganda where the quality of services is tagged to wealth, such that the higher the quality desired the more the money one must spend thus denying the poor an opportunity to quality services despite paying taxes to Government.


• It is incumbent upon Government to identify and address the existing loopholes to ensure that outputs from Government Programmes are commensurate to the sector investment. 

• A good start would be enacting and enforcing Policies to encourage citizens, especially the public servants to use these facilities so they can cause the changes necessary to have the desired quality of services. 

• Government must also make deliberate effort to combat corruption since most of the abused funds are public funds yet those who embezzle them shy away from using these public services.