The Belgian Deputy Ambassador to Uganda, Koen Van Acoleyen has criticised Government over reduction of funding in the education sector.
Speaking at the 27th annual Education and Sports Sector Review in Kampala on Wednesday, Acoleyen said education is one of the strongest instruments for improving gender equality, health and peace and security, adding that equitable access to quality education has proved to be reduce hunger and poverty.
He noted that education is the solution to the challenges Uganda faces but added that access to quality education is still a major challenge in Uganda despite the progress made.
“Education should be the solution to most of the challenges this country is facing and the first investment to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as Vision 2040. If Uganda is to turn its Agricultural sector into a powerhouse for economic growth as it envisages in the NDP III (National Development Plan III), then the country needs youths that are better educated and skilled as well as motivated for modernized and sustainable Agriculture,” he added.
As education is so important, Acoleyen challenged Uganda Government over cutting of financing of the education sector.
“Despite all the evidence mentioned on its economic importance, the education sector continues to suffer from a very serious challenge of financing. For the sixth consecutive year now, the share of the national budget allocated to education has decreased, reaching the critically low level of 10% this year instead of the 20% that Uganda committed at various occasions.”
“Because of this low financing, Uganda cannot afford to grant all learners access to education system in spite of Universal Primary Education (UPE) and Universal Secondary Education (USE),” he said.
He added that because of low financing, those who can access UPE and USE perform very poor.
“It’s a vicious circle that we need to urgently turn around to make sure Ugandan children do not suffer the consequences.”
In response, the Minister of State for Higher Education John Chysestom Muyingo admitted the cuts in funding for education sector and added that indeed three is need for improvement.
“What is very clear is that the share of education from the national budget has been reduced and the reasons are very clear. But there is a very big need to improve on the share of our budget (education sector budget) on the national budget because every year, the numbers are growing,” said Muyingo.
“We are worried but as Government, we are trying our best to improve on the share that goes to education,” he added.
Muyingo revealed that there is a number of programs coming onboard to finance education facilities such as construction of 117 secondary schools under the phase I of Uganda Inter Governmental Transfers (UgIFT) followed by 115 secondary schools under phase II.
He added that there is another project where Government will construct 116 secondary schools which will bring the total to over 340 secondary schools in the next financial year.
Muyingo revealed that finances to execute projects will be from the development partners and the Government.
In November 2020, Cabinet approved 120-million-dollar loan from the World Bank that now awaits legal opinion and parliamentary approval. The loan will be used to execute the above projects.
Asked why there is huge cuts on the education budget, Muyingo said demands are huge including the non-planned incidents such as COVID-19 outbreak and floods.
Meanwhile, the Belgian Deputy Head of Mission in Uganda, Acoleyen noted that one of the strategies to help build a strong education sector is digitalisation.
“Digitalisation at all levels has been an obvious silver lining of the pandemic. Governments have started to use the increasing number of digital solutions, and the education sector is no exception.”
“Digitalisation should be an opportunity to reach the remote places and the most vulnerable citizens. Digitalisation should bring learners from across the world to accept one another and therefore mutual understanding as global citizens,” he said.
On the contrary however, he said that the fact that digitalisation widens the gap between the poor and the rich, and rural and urban populations should be avoided.