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Mobiles Transforming School Governance in Uganda

By Geoffrey Ssembajjwe on December 17, 2012

Uganda introduced Universal Primary Education (UPE) in 1997 as a step towards the realization of universal access to basic education. Since then, the Ugandan Government has reiterated its commitment towards this by endorsing the Education For All (EFA) Goals and increased the education budget allocation. In the 2009/2010 national budget, education took the second largest share, increasing from Shillings 899b the previous year to 1 trillion shillings. Out of this, over 50% is dedicated towards the realization of UPE.

While enrolment for primary education has increased tremendously and the gender gap between boys and girls reduced (51% boys and 49% girls), challenges remain with regard to completion and quality of the learning outcomes more so in the rural schools. Children start school but attend intermittently and do not finish. Those who stay at school are not effectively equipped with literacy, numeracy and life skills relevant to their lives and
they often learn by rote without real understanding.
A government study revealed that less than half the pupils who enroll in primary one do not complete primary seven in the set time-frame. Besides, many children complete primary level education without acquiring basic literacy and numeracy skills. A national assessment conducted by UWEZO1 for 2010 revealed that 98% children among all primary 3 children sampled, could not read and understand a story text of primary 2, and
80% could not solve at least two numerical written division sums of primary 2 level difficulties correctly.

Children are going to school but not actually learning.
Key factors behind the poor quality of education and low completion rates are:
• High teacher absenteeism (20% – 30% varying per districts). Teacher absenteeism costs the Ugandan government US$ 30m every year for paid services that are not delivered (World Bank, MoES);
• Low frequency and limited participation in staff meetings, PTA/SMC, one-to-one parent-class teacher, ad hoc and student leader meetings.
• Low follow-up on pupils’ school attendance and hence irregular school attendance by pupils – 27% of Ugandan children are not in school at any given moment; and
• Misallocation of UPE resources by some school head teachers
A fundamental cause of these factors is weak school governance, which occurs because of three mutually reinforcing reasons:
• A belief by parents that education is solely the responsibility of the government and that parents have no role, nor competence, in it, so there a lack of effective parental and community involvement in their children’s education;
• A lack of systematic information flows among education stakeholders, and especially between schools, students, parents and local education authorities. This has hindered stakeholders from supporting schools and demanding children’s rightful education.
• Very limited community knowledge and organizational capacity to oversee the schools in its area.
These three reasons contribute significantly to the low accountability of schools to stakeholders, poor quality of learning outcomes and high school dropout rates.
To enhance school governance, an ICT system utilizing mobile technology has been developed by Plan Uganda funded by Nokia which has mitigated the above factors which contribute to poor school governance.
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