Reference is made to the article, Oil activities boost education sector, written by Ms. Gloria Sebikari of the Petroleum Authority of Uganda.
In the article, Sebikari argues that oil activities have had a positive impact on education in the oil region.
She cites the upgrading of two schools by Tullow Oil and other initiatives by oil companies in Hoima district to give the impression that oil activities have uplifted education standards in the oil region.
Sebikari’s article comes short. It not only limits itself to the few initiatives undertaken by oil companies to better education services in Hoima district, it also ignores government’s mass failings including failure to enable adequate access to primary, secondary and tertiary education in Uganda at large and in the oil region in particular.
Further, Sebikari’s article fails to discuss government’s massive destabilisation of education access for pupils affected by compulsory land acquisition projects.
Without a discussion of these failures, justice will not be served for the thousands of pupils set to be affected by old and upcoming oil sector projects such as the oil refinery, crude oil pipeline, feeder oil pipelines, central processing facilities, airstrips, roads and other mega oil sector infrastructure.
Why do we say this?
Beginning in June 2012, government started on a land acquisition process for Uganda’s proposed oil refinery in which over 1,300 children were affected. The land acquisition also affected two schools including Nyahaira primary school and Kyapaloni primary school.
In 2013, these schools were closed despite the fact that over 96 per cent of the families affected by the land acquisition suffered delayed compensation and, therefore, still needed education services for their children.
As a result, pupil’s access to education was negatively affected. While teachers and parents requested that government provides them with alternatives to enable their children return to school, government ignored their pleas.
Parents found alternatives such as sending their older children who could walk long distances to other schools. However, the younger children who should have been in kindergarten and lower primary were not sent to school.
Consequently, to date, over four years later, at least 100 school-age-going children are still out of school.
In addition, while Sebikari argues that education in the oil region is better because of oil activities, figures by Uganda Bureau of Statistics paint a different picture. For instance, the statistics show that access to secondary school remains a challenge in Uganda and indeed in the oil rich Bunyoro and Acholi sub-regions.
Like their rural peers elsewhere, 54 per cent of the students in Bunyoro and Acholi sub-regions walk for 5km or more to access secondary school. Over 69 per cent students walk to access technical schools. This is per the 2016/2017 Uganda National Household Survey.
Little wonder then that while net primary school enrollment in the Bunyoro and Acholi sub-regions stand at 81.2 per cent and 77.2 per cent respectively, the secondary school enrollment is a paltry 24.1 per cent and 15.9 per cent respectively!
Some government schools in Hoima district are in a sorry state. In Buseruka sub-county, for instance, government-owned Kabaale Public primary school was issued with closure notices by the Hoima district local government because it poses health hazards.
The above picture does not speak of a boosted education sector because of oil activities. In fact, for some pupils, education dreams are destroyed by oil activities.
This could also be repeated for the pupils who are going to be affected by the aforementioned mega oil sector infrastructural projects. This must be avoided.
The author is a senior communications officer, Africa Institute for Energy Governance (Afiego)