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In 1997 Uganda resolved to achieve universal primary education (UPE). Within five years, the number of children in primary schools almost trebled. However, pupil:teacher, pupil:textbook and pupil:classroom ratios have all worsened. Many parents of primary schoolchildren spend more than the state does on their education. Dependence on donors makes it unlikely that education input and quality indicators will be restored to pre-UPE standards.
A report from Uganda’s Economic Policy Research Centre looks at how Uganda pays for primary education. Whilst the authors welcome government investment and hail success in getting girls into school, they point to inconsistencies and inefficiencies in the way funds are spent.
The commitment to UPE came as part of a pre-election pledge. Planners were aware of resource implications but initial efforts to restrict the number of children were abandoned as Ugandan leaders promised seven years of primary education to every child. As a result, primary school gross enrolment shot up from 2.5 million pupils in 1996 to 7.3 million by the end of 2002.
Education expenditure rose dramatically from 2.1% of GDP in 1995 to 4.8% of GDP in 2000. Education’s share of total government spending went up from 13.7% in 1990 to 24.7% in 1998. Due to the sheer number of pupils, expenditure per child has declined. Spending favours wealthier parts of Uganda, where parents are able to contribute a higher proportion to the education of their children. In 2000 in Kampala, expenditure per primary school pupil was six times greater than in the remote northern district of Kotido.
There is little relation between per pupil public expenditure and education achievements– some regions do badly despite relatively high levels of expenditure per pupil while others with less funding do better. Financial mismanagement in different local governments explains the variation between expenditure per pupil and education achievements. The report also notes that:
If UPE is to succeed in Uganda, policy-makers must:
Much will depend on continued donor support. Inequality will worsen if poor parents are expected to make substantial contributions to the cost of educating their children.
‘Financing primary education for all: Uganda’, Institute of Development Studies by Lawrence Bategeka, Milton Ayoki and Ashie Mukungu January 2004
Funded by: Department for International Development, UK
id21 Research Highlight: 28 October 2004
Economic Policy Research Centre
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'Achieving schooling for all – lessons in education spending'
'Hitting the target: doubling primary enrolments in sub-Saharan Africa by 2015'