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Why govt needs private partnerships in education

Education is the greatest equalizer and most valid inheritance parents can give to their children.

The foregoing is also true for nation states and governments. Indeed, this is why Uganda flags education as a bedrock and critical sector for its economic, political, and social development.

It is also one of the enduring routes for Ugandans to steadily escape poverty and participate productively in society as well as in the marketplace, no matter their socioeconomic status.

These are just some of the reasons the Uganda government continues to vehemently take on the responsibility of providing and financing education, especially basic education. The introduction of Universal Primary Education and Universal Secondary Education is evidence of this commitment.

This responsibility is, however, a large and complex one to be met adequately without participation of diverse partners. Good thing is, Uganda has always recognised this point. It was, indeed, not until early 1950s that government started to fully engage in education service provision.

Before that, the likes of religious institutions were the frontrunners in education provision. As of today, for example, the Church of Uganda has 55 tertiary institutions, 600 secondary schools and 5,118 primary schools across the country. In 1950’s, Uganda’s population was a paltry five million people.

Now the country is a home to over 42 million people. Uganda now has more heads whose prosperity must begin in the classroom. In spite of meaningful economic growth rate (averaging around six percent), there are other competing strategic cost centers (from defense and security and agriculture to infrastructure).

This has meant that for Uganda’s education sector to succeed, other stakeholders that include parents, teachers, communities, charities and the private sector have to pitch in.

Whilst there are many strengths within Uganda’s education system, there are also some existing challenges. UN statistics show that many children in Uganda are enrolled in school but never attend.

While enrolment has gone up to reach the UN sustainable development goals of having 90 per cent of children participating in school, approximately 68 per cent of children enrolled in  primary schools are likely to drop out before completing.

Teacher absenteeism is at 56 per cent. Only 14 per cent of Ugandan children attend pre-primary school. Some 10 per cent of boys and 14 per cent of girls between 15 and 25 are illiterate.

Government will, therefore, continue to need partners to decisively deal with these challenges. One such partner is Bridge Schools that has taken root in Uganda, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and in India.

Since it opened its doors in Uganda, Bridge provides quality education to over 14,000 children across the 63 campuses scattered in the four corners of the country.

Recently, I visited a Bridge school in Adalafu in Arua district that has over 300 children. These children come from where money is a scarce commodity. Interacting with these children and understanding the role education plays in transforming their future further convinced me on the need on strengthening partnerships in education.

Besides the active and participatory learning that captured my attention, the use of technology – teacher computers – to enhance the learning experience and access proves how technology can transform our country.

The teacher computer is a collection of all lesson plans and guides (instruction materials) derived from the Uganda curriculum that ensures that the teacher spends enough time interacting with pupils and giving individual feedback.

Relatedly, the teacher computers act as clock-in gargets, thus dealing with teacher absenteeism. Use of computers also helps teachers to complete lessons and entire syllabi on time.

Uganda’s ministry of Education and Sports and ministry of Information and Communications Technology have been positive in regard to advancing technology-driven education delivery. In this field, Bridge Uganda is a natural partner.

This technology, coupled with innovative ways of delivering quality education, forms part of the empirical evidence documented in the latest report by the Centre for Global Development on a study they conducted in Liberia.

The research showed that students at Bridge-run partnership schools for Liberia public schools learned significantly more than students at traditional public schools. They learnt nearly twice as much in reading and more than twice in maths.

This is the equivalent of an additional year of schooling. There is, therefore,  no doubt that the challenge of meeting the Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education as well as promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030 remains a daunting one but one that can easily be achieved through better partnerships.  

The author is the country director, Bridge Schools Uganda.


+1 #1 Robert Atuhairwe 2017-11-30 18:48
Did Mr Rwakakamba instantly metamorphose into a critic of gov't the moment before and after landing this assignment?
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