Uganda Education Discrimination: Students Fail in northern regions from war and neglect

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 Some Gulu university students on their graduation day

“Tackling inequality is a political imperative for the government, if we are to move to the Middle Income economy. There is a great need for social fairness and economic efficiency. Inequalities hampers growth and undermines social cohesion by curbing opportunities for lower but also middle income class”

“This is a glaring fact. It is further evidence that development programs are not being spread equally across all regions of the country deliberately. I have been sounding this warning since the National Resistance Movement government came to power in 1986, but Ugandans have been sleeping ever since. They must wake up”

GULU-UGANDA--Government universities in Uganda have started admitting students who passed the 2017 Uganda Advance Certificate of Education (UACE) very well on direct entrance, where government pays for all their expenses.

In northern region, there are only 6 out of 2,730 students who qualified for government scholarships who were actually admitted on government sponsorship, that is; they scored at least two principle passes-the minimum requirement for university admission.

The northern part of Uganda has never recovered from more than 20 years of war between Gen. Museveni's army and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). During the conflict the regime herded nearly 90% of the population into concentration camps where people endured untold suffering. The World Health Organization (WHO) in 2005 estimated that there were more than 1,000 excess deaths above normal in those camps meaning more than one million people may have died during the 20 years of the camps existence. A whole generation missed out on education.

Today the northern part of Uganda misses out on development funding even from the World Bank. It has the highest poverty rate in the country. The collapse of education is merely one legacy of the war that many critics contend the regime prolongrd because the military and political elite benefited from financially by diverting or embezzling resources budgeted for the conflict.

The continuing effects of the current neglect are devastating. Four students from St. Joseph’s College, Layibi in Gulu and two students from Dr. Obote College, Boroboro in Lira, were the only lucky ones who secured the government sponsored admission.

This represents 0.09% (percent) of all who sat for the  Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education examinations from northern Uganda numbering (6,017) and 0.22% of all those who qualified to join university education are (2,730) respectively.

A total of 1,506 got only one principle pass, but are qualified to join other tertiary institutions for Diploma courses, before they can eventually join university with the diploma they have attained.

Ninety-three students in the northern region failed to get one principle pass out of the 6,017 who sat  the examination. This is only 1.55% of the total number who sat.

The admission lists for those who will be admitted on the district quarter system, in which government also pays fees on affirmative action, is not yet out. A few more will be admitted out of this 0.22% who passed; meaning that the number of students from northern Uganda,who will get government sponsorship will increase.

In central region alone, however, a total of 37,579 students passed and qualified for government sponsorship. Out of these, a single school, St. Mary’s Secondary School Kitende, managed to send 197 students to the various universities, representing 0.52% of those who passed from central region.

Other schools which topped admission lists from central region include Uganda Martyrs’, Namugongo with (98 students), Seeta High School with (72 students) while  Mengo Secondary School secured (71 slots).

12,155 students from Western Uganda and 8,395 students from Eastern Uganda qualified for admissions to universities. Statistics of those who will get government sponsorships from those regions was not readily available.

On March 30, 2017, Uganda’s independent newspaper, The Daily Monitor quoted Oxfam as saying  10% of Ugandans, whose income is growing at 20% per year, own 35.7% of the country’s wealth, meanwhile, 90% of Ugandan’s share the 64.7% of the national wealth, as their income dwindles by 21% (percent).

The poorest 20% of Ugandans earn a meager 5.8% of the national income annually.

“Tackling inequality is a political imperative for the government, if we are to move to a middle income economy. There is a great need for social fairness and economic efficiency. Inequalities hamper growth and undermines social cohesion, by curbing opportunities for lower and middle income earners”, says Ms. Irene Ovonji Odida, the Executive Director of Women Lawyers Association-FIDA Uganda.

At the peak of the war between the regime and the LRA, several Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) supported poor parents, who could not send their children to school, by sponsoring thousands through secondary education, including university education.

Organizations like Invisible Children, World Vision, Windle Trust; Forum for African Women Educationists (FAWE), Acholi Education Initiative (AEI) and Gulu Save the Children Organization (GUSCO) helped in filling the gaps, where parents lacked resources.

Between 2005 and 2014, Invisible Children sponsored at least 1,761 students to secondary schools and 418 others attained university education with their support. The organization was later accused of pro-regime propaganda and even spying when The Black Star News published an expose about its collaboration with the regime in producing the viral video "Kony 2012."

Glaring disparity worries leaders

According to the former president of Uganda Peoples’ Congress (UPC) Dr. Olara-Otunnu, the debilitating disparity in education delivery between this region and the rest is a deliberate attempt by the dictator of 32-years, Gen. Museveni, to under-develop northern Uganda, which he is now implementing effectively.

“This is a glaring fact. It is further evidence, that development programs are not being spread across all regions of the country deliberately. I have been sounding this warning since the National Resistance Movement government came to power in 1986, but Ugandans have been sleeping ever since. They must wake up”,  Otunnu says.

The woman Member of Parliament for Gulu district, Ms. Betty Aol Ocan says she will raise this disparity on the floor of parliament as a matter of national importance as soon as she gets all the disparity facts right.

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