FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE: IS UPE STILL A BLESSING?

Seese Primary School is a Government school in Kagadi district, Busirabo Parish. One look at this school is enough to tell you that Universal Primary Education (UPE) is not quite the blessing that Ugandans had hoped it would be. When FOWODE’s Village Budget Club (VBCs) of Busirabo Parish visited the school, what they discovered was appalling. Half of the primary seven (P.7) class was being used as a dormitory. Worse still, the dormitory was shared by both boys and girls. When the VBCs asked the Deputy Head teacher whether he thought that such an arrangement was safe for the pupils, he responded in the affirmative, informing the team that the matron’s mattress functioned as the boundary between the boys and girls. In his opinion, this was enough to guarantee the safety of the children. When interviewed by the FOWODE team, some of the girls disclosed that boys often harassed them when the matron fell asleep.

Seese Primary School in Kagadi district

While this arrangement violates the privacy of both girls and boys at Seese Primary School, this is the furthest thing in the mind of the school administration which is focusing only on trying to have the pupils pass their Primary Leaving Examination (PLE).

The school lacked sufficient numbers of teachers and the few that were present complained that they were not getting paid. Even when the parents decided to collect ten thousand shillings per child to pay the teachers through the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) they were still not paid. A school with a population of approximately three hundred pupils with hardly any teachers and a crumbling structure hardly inspires confidence that the leaders of tomorrow are getting a befitting education.

Still in Kagadi District, St. Martha Primary School in Kenga Sub County parents decried the poor performance. One teacher retorted that government schools only taught children how to read and write and if parents wanted their children to pass they should take them to private schools. In the same school a primary seven pupil was unable to define a desert. When VBCs visited Buseruka Primary School in Hoima, seventy three girls and seventy seven boys were absent that day.

Kabaale Primary School in Hoima was noted to have only three classrooms and the pit latrines were full. The School is congested given that it took on pupils from two schools that were closed when government acquired twenty nine square miles to build an oil refinery, implying that the people of Hoima are among the first Ugandans to catch a glimpse the oil curse. Responsible government would require that duty bearers put in place a mechanism of ensuring that the displaced pupils have alternatives for proceeding with their studies.

The monitoring reports of the village budget clubs reveal the sad state of government schools, including absent teachers, poor sanitation facilities, latrines, lack of water sources and inadequate classroom blocks to effectively accommodate pupils. In an assessment carried out by Uwezo in 2010, it was discovered that 98% children among all P3 children they sampled could not read and understand a ‘story’ text of P2 level and 80% could not solve at least two numerical written division sums of P2 level correctly.

The key objectives of the introduction of UPE was to enable every child enter and remain in school until the primary cycle of education was complete and to reduce poverty by equipping every individual with basic skills. With the state of these UPE schools, the jury is out on whether the UPE objectives are being achieved.


Village Budget Clubs (VBCS) – This is a model developed by FOWODE in 2009 on the basis that every Ugandan citizen has a right to participate in the affairs of Government as per the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995 Article 38 Section 2. The VBC is where a group of community activists who advocate for accountable leadership and gender responsive service delivery at the grassroots level. The club is comprised of 20 members ( 12 women and 8 men) carefully selected by the communities they come from and are people of high moral stature and respected within the communities, have community responsibility and are gender sensitive. The club acts as a pressure group and provides space for community members especially women to develop agendas for influencing the local government planning and budgeting process. The 20 members who comprise the club (12 women and 8 men) are selected The club monitors how public resources are mobilized, allocated and utilized; whether the allocation criteria addresses the needs of poor women and men in their community and advocates for equitable service delivery.
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