By Barbara Kasekende
Most of us will agree a holistic education plays a critical role in any country’s economic success.
Recently however, the World Bank Group published a report that highlighted Uganda’s low ranking in the latest Human Capital Index mainly due to the country’s low education outcomes.
According to the report, ‘Economic Development and Human Capital in Uganda: A case for Investing More in Education’ government spending in this sector is among the lowest in the region.
In the past five years, expenditure as a share of the total national budget has been declining reaching 10% in 2017/18 compared to the sub-Saharan Africa average of 16% in the same interlude.
However in the latest budget, the government announced an increased allocation, but education minister, Janet Museveni told a parliamentary committee in mid-April, “That increment notwithstanding, the share of the Education and Sports Sector Budget over the National Budget is projected to reduce from 11.08% to 10.26% which is still below the recommended target of 15%.”
According to the 2015 State of Education in Africa report, ‘Rising enrolment rates have drastically outpaced education funding, resulting in shortages of instructional materials and supplies, poorly stocked libraries and the overuse of school facilities’. It is tempting to heap all blame on the government, but our educational institutions do not exist in isolation. They are a central part of a community. Unfortunately, many parents also have the mistaken view that education is solely the responsibility of the schools and not a joint responsibility of the community.
School administrations play a vital role in that institution’s development and student productivity. A typical Ugandan student spends at least nine months in a year at school from their early learning days until they finish university! School administrations therefore have the role to ensure the overall wellbeing of the students on their premises, especially in this era of high enrolment numbers.
The problem today however, is undue focus is being placed on achieving the required grade rather than the total wellbeing of the student. In addition, schools have issues concerning inadequate infrastructure and feeding just to mention but a few. As the students finish their studies they are then thrust into the outside world to face challenges largely not catered for while in school.
Raising our children is a community effort. Thus the schools should not have the “we have been forgotten” mentality. School administrations need to embrace the idea of thinking out-of-the box. The government can only do so much, but by the time one is trusted with an institution, you are highly qualified to help that institution/school succeed. Schools should embrace developmental programs and most importantly develop the student to be reasonably self- sustaining once out of the school’s environment.
This explains why institutions like Stanbic Bank under their Corporate Social Investments (CSI) fully support education. Focus is on empowering our future young leaders and job creators. This is reflected in their flagship program, National Schools Championship. Without a doubt, anyone who has participated in the NSC is already a self-starter.
Other organisations like USAID, MTN, UNICEF DANIDA, DFID and SIDA to mention but a few in partnership with the Ministry of Education and sports have done quite a number of programs to ensure a holistic education for students.
However, school administrations are on ground and need to show more self-initiative. If the issue is feeding for example and a school has extra land to do some farm projects that the school students can get involved in, why not reach out and start an agricultural project. If the students are taking entrepreneurship classes why not start actual entrepreneurship projects where the school and students can benefit while adding to what they are already studying? Why do the schools have to wait for handouts or increase student tuition?
Schools have to be confident enough to engage the private sector to help drive some of these initiatives. This means any developmental programs within a district should not be taken for granted. Students should be given some leeway to explore new opportunities to grow as young adults. Teachers should be open-minded to such initiatives.
We are not saying that students shouldn’t study; however, skills learned from such projects prepare them for the outside world. Not only will you be helping the student become a success, but this same student will be your most valued alumni!
Uganda is our home and without a holistic quality education we cannot drive her growth. School administrations need to kick it up a notch and embrace innovation. Grades are good, but grades alone are not enough for the development of this country.
The writer is the Stanbic Bank Head Corporate Social Investment