By Dickson Namisi.
Desmond Tutu once stated that “Universal Education is not only a moral imperative but an economic necessity to pave the way towards making many more nations self-sufficient and sustaining.” It was on the basis of similar thoughts that the Government of Uganda under the custodianship of H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni introduced Universal Primary Education (UPE) programme in 1997 as a permanent and fundamental change for socio-economic and political transformation of the country.
Government of Uganda developed a white paper on education in 1992 with main recommendations including eradicating illiteracy and equip individuals with basic skills and knowledge to exploit the environment for self- development as well as national development for better health, nutrition, family life and capability for continued learning.
This therefore, justifies the analogy of the pillars under which Universal Primary Education was built on foundations of; The Government White Paper on Education, Sector-Wide Approach (SWAP), Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP), The National Development Plan, Uganda Vision 2040, Education Strategic Investment Plan (ESIP) and the Geo-Political and Economic Context of Education and Development. Contrary to common claims that Universal Primary Education was started without a well thought out plan to score quick political points, there were more comprehensive analyses and strategic thinking to start UPE even before the National Resistance Movement Government came to power in 1986.
For example, one of the UPC campaign promises was Universal Primary Education, though the attempt to implement it failed. In 1997, Universal Primary Education started and became a dream come true for most of the poor parents who could hardly afford and sustain the cost of education for their children. It’s now evident enough that in a record time, enrolment into primary school tremendously increased from 3.06 million pupils in 1996 to 8.84 million in 2017 with more girls going to school than ever before in the history of Uganda. Besides, the number of primary school teachers also magically increased by 41% from 103,331 in 1997 to 145,703 in 2004. Equally, the number of schools also increased by 41% from 10,490 in 1997 to 14,816 in 2004. This has since then entailed sustained expansion of access to both primary and Lower secondary that has magically transcended literacy rates by 74.6% (male 82.4%, female 66.8%) which clears demonstrates the impact of education in our country.
Putting in consideration an over view of the teacher to pupils ration, a little more appreciation goes to Government for creating an environment that has enabled us witness an increase in numbers of teachers hired from 73,543 in 1996 to 207,238 in 2017. In September 2000, building upon a decade of major United Nations conferences and summits, world leaders came together at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to adopt the United Nations Millennium Declaration in which they designed the Eight Millennium Development Goals. Among which, achieving Universal education was the second.
However, on 25th – 27th September 2015, the heads of state, Government and Representatives held a meeting at United Nations Headquarters in New York in which they decided to introduce the new Global Sustainable Development Goals that obtain a concept in SDG 4 that justifies the inclusion and equitable quality education and promotion of lifelong learning opportunities for all. Uganda’s Vision 2040 also provides development paths and strategies to operationalize Uganda’s Vision statement which is “a Transformed Ugandan Society from a Peasant to a Modern and Prosperous Country within 30 years” as approved by Cabinet in 2007.
All these policies have been brought on board to support the Eradication of illiteracy levels in Uganda. It should be noted that the adoption of Universal Primary Education enriched the most fundamental and far- reaching program with a Gross Enrolment Ratio improved to 128% in 2012 while Net Enrolment Ratio improved from 92% (2012) to 93.7% in 2017. Therefore, it’s fundamental enough to prove the assumption that UPE has played a tremendous role in the socio-economic development of Uganda. So, as we celebrate this year’s Tarehe Sita with a theme “consolidating the UPDF Strategic Partnership with the People to Guard the Gains of Liberation”, it should be noted that, UPE programme marked a turning point in the history of Uganda.
Celebrations will be held in the Greater Luwero districts. Tarehe Sita celebrations therefore, mark and recognize the heroism and gallantry exhibited by the 41 patriots who made the foundation upon which the UPDF rests today as a peoples’ army and a vanguard force in the struggle to achieve social economic transformation.
The Writer is a Communications Assistant at Government Citizen Interaction Centre, (GCIC), Ministry of ICT and National Guidance.