Former Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) presidential candidate Kizza Besigye has blamed President Museveni’s government for what he called neglect of education.
Addressing reporters on Friday, Dr Besigye said it is this neglect that has led to recurrent strikes by teachers and lecturers in the country over the years.
“In this year’s budget, Mr Museveni is going to use Shs 94bn for presidential donations, handing out money to whoever he wants. For university students’ loans, only Shs 4bn for the whole county was budgeted,” Besigye said at his home in Kasangati, Wakiso district.
He was reacting to last Tuesday’s closure of Makerere University, after lecturers struck over unpaid allowance arrears, and students demonstrated over the resultant idleness. The problem, Besigye said, is not funding, but government’s wrong priorities.
“Education should occupy the very first priority for this country because everything depends on that,” Besigye said, urging parliament, when it convenes, to reallocate money from what he called “wasteful expenditures” to education.
Besigye proposed a national forum for education, involving parents, teachers, school founding institutions and prominent Ugandans, to discuss issues affecting the sector.
“These children [Makerere students] had just paid their fees even privately-run hostels have been forced to close them; parents are scattered; they can’t meet to say this is wrong it is only Museveni and his wife talking. We must have a framework that brings together relevant stakeholders to champion education in our country,” Besigye said.
Meanwhile, Dr Besigye condemned “government inaction” in the face of acute food shortages across the country. The government recently admitted that about 1.3 million people in 45 districts were starving, following prolonged drought. But Besigye wants parliament to declare a national disaster and government to issue an international appeal for food relief.
“If you are a head of a family and you don’t plan well and a disaster happens in your home, the least thing you can do is to raise an alarm. Although neighbors may criticize you, but at least they may save you,” Besigye said, adding that he and friends had so far collected two trucks of maize flour which is ready for dispatch to selected affected areas.
But senior presidential spokesman Don Wanyama rejected Besigye’s accusations of wasteful expenditure, telling us by phone: “Education has been one of the sectors getting the biggest share of the budget. So, what does he mean by saying there hasn’t been enough money in education? What is happening in Makerere is not an issue of government funding but an issue of internally-generated revenue.
On Besigye’s plan to mobilize famine relief, Wanyama said Besigye was free to do so provided he does not break the law – otherwise he will be stopped.
“Government has relief programs of its own but of course he [Besigye] is just doing political posturing to score cheap political points,” he said.