Uganda’s North East region of Karamoja which comprises of eight districts is served by one public library, a new study by Makerere University has disclosed.
This and other revealing discoveries are contained in a report titled “Framework for establishing Community Multi-Purpose Telecenters in Karamoja Sub-Region” that was carried out in January 2021.
The study was conducted in Abim, Amudat, Kotido, Moroto, Nakapiripiriti and Napak targeting 728 respondents who consisted of locals, Non-Governmental Organization (NGOs) and Education Officers.
Speaking at the release of the report on Wednesday; Aloysius Mwanje, one of the principal investigators bemoaned the lack of modern information centers saying this could further entrench illiteracy and poverty.
“People have to walk long distances because even secretarial services and printing are not so common, mostly in Amudat and Napak. We were shocked that the entire sub region has one Public library, courtesy of Uganda Radio Network (URN),” Mwanje intimated.
“It is the only public library in the entire sub region, it is located in Moroto district,” he added.
Mwanje pointed at findings which show that only 59.7% of the respondents could read and write whereas a significant 34.5% were totally unable.
To complicate matters, it was also found that lack of adequate radio stations across the nine districts is stifling locals from accessing information.
“Five radio stations are currently operating in Moroto, Nakapiripiriti, Abim and Kotido. No radio stations were reported in Napak and Amudat. In Amudat specifically, people receive Kenyan content due to access of Kenyan Radio stations,” Mwanje disclosed.
From the report, the biggest percentage of respondents (22.8%) receive information through radio, 16% through village meetings while political campaigns account for 0.5%.
Some of these findings were however dismissed by State Minister for Karamoja Affairs Minister Moses Kawaaluuko Kizige.
Kizige pointed out that while radio stations are badly needed, the issue of locals listening to Kenyan radio stations in nearby West Pokot County shouldn’t be a concern.
For one, he argued that the Karamajong communities have always shared close ties with Pokots in Kenya and this therefore is not surprising.
“But that is not strange, even fuel is bought in Kenya Shillings. I think they find it nearer,” he argued.
That said, Kizige also said that it was not true that a number of projects in Karamoja had failed due to stinking corruption saying that during his tenure such a thing had not happened.
“We have been having the National Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF III) project funded by the World Bank and because of that (performance), we are getting funds for NUSAF IV,” he stated.
All said and done, he promised that the Government would do its best in alleviating the highlighted areas and allayed fears concerning the availability of resources in light of the Covid-19 Pandemic.
“We have always had budget cuts across. But since 2009 when the First Lady became minister for Karamoja, our budget has never been cut. We have never had any budget cuts in the ministry of Karamoja,” he assured.