Four out of Uganda’s public five universities are severely in need of lecturers as well as other more senior staff members, reports allAfrica. A new report put out by the country’s Auditor General’s office puts the faculty shortages at nearly 3,000 positions and warns of the effect this will have on students’ educations.
"The Auditor General’s report is a clear and true indication of what is happening in public universities’ staffing," Education Minister Jessica Alupo told allAfrica. "We are doing our best to see this is changed quickly." She noted, however, that so far, budget limitations have prevented universities from recruiting more staff.
In some universities, the staffing levels are below 50 percent. At Makerere University - Uganda’s largest public school - just 1,403 academic positions are filled out of 2,654, or about 53 percent. In some cases, universities have cancelled new courses due to lack of staff.
"Public universities in Uganda are witnessing a mass exodus of lecturers and professions in the recent past, a trend that is believed to be fueled by better pay offers abroad," according to allAfrica.
"The World Bank convinced the government that university education was not only elitist but a luxury that society could not afford…The logic was elegant but populist and faulty. It has had disastrous consequences for higher education, not just in Uganda but wherever it has been applied in Africa… Who would train administrators and teachers for primary schools? Who would design the curriculum? The answer to both questions is: universities. It is nonsense to think that the benefit of higher education goes only or even mainly to those who teach, work or study there. It is like saying that the benefit of a power dam goes only to the management and the workers in the dam, ignoring the millions whose workplaces and houses, offices and streets, are lit by that power."
— Professor Mahmood Mamdani speaking at the Makerere University Africa lecture series
The Malawi government has accused singer Madonna of failing to keep it informed about her plans to build 10 new schools in the country, saying it is “fed up” with her, reports Reuters.
"She has no mandate to decide where she wants to build a school because she doesn’t know our needs and where we want new schools … she first needed to consult us, get permission from us before doing anything," said Ministry of Education spokeswoman Lindiwe Chide. "We now feel like this is all about propping up her global image and not in our interest.
Madonna’s charity, Raising Malawi, had previous planned to build a all-girls school in the country, but the effort was scrapped after $3.8 million had been spent on it. Madonna did not inform the government when the project was cancelled, Chide said.
But others disagree. “This is simply not true,” Trevor Neilson, head of Global Philanthropy Group said in a statement released by a Madonna spokeswomen. “The government of Malawi has been fully updated on Madonna’s effort to provide funding for 10 schools to be built in communities where there are no schools.”
Uganda may lose out on a $100 million grant for education funding from the World Bank because it has failed to allocate adequate government money to education, according to All Africa.
Although the country is still technically eligible to apply for the Global Partnership for Education grant, the World Bank has said one of its conditions is that at least 20 percent of the national budget must be devoted to education.
Uganda, in fact, has dropped its education spending from 17 percent of the national budget - as laid out in a 2010 plan - to 14 percent.
"This is something that the secretariat will examine. It is a serious issue," said Sukhdeep Brar, an education specialist at the World Bank. "[That the] government has continued to reduce funding from 17 percent to 14 percent creating a huge gap contrary to [the] World Bank requirement is a serious issue which will not be taken for granted."
The decline in education spending is exacerbated by other economic factors, said Marc Gedopt, Belgian ambassador to Uganda.
"If we take into account the high rate of inflation at 28.1 percent, the size of the budget is worse than stagnant," he said. "This can have [a] far reaching impact on the ground and serious constraints on our aspirations."
When Barbara Creecy, head of education for South Africa’s Gauteng province, paid a surprise visit to a high school, she discovered that the majority of students were showing up late. About 700 students - or 60 percent of Lavela Secondary School - were tardy that day, with most coming in 30 to 60 minutes after the start of classes, according to Agence France Press.
"It’s time for things to change. From tomorrow, anyone arriving late will be taken to the Jabulani police station," Creecy told students. "We will then call your parents to come and collect you."
Several teachers where also late that day, but Creecy did not specify whether they will face a similar punishment in the future.
Protests are still raging in Nigeria, set off by by the removal of a government fuel subsidy on Jan. 1. The country’s government has paid billions every year to lower the cost of fuel for its citizens. On the first day of the new year, it ended the practice and the price more than doubled overnight.
The government is now saying that it will invest the money it spent on the fuel subsidy on things like infrastructure, healthcare and education. Schools across Nigeria are currently closed due to the protests. But in the meantime, All Africa questions if the removal of the subsidy will hurt education before it can help:
Parent Sunday Ade says he thinks the removal of fuel subsidy is a good initiative, but Nigerians do not trust the government to fulfill their promises. He said the removal of petrol subsidies would affect his ability to properly care for his children.
"If my salary or income does not increase and my expenses more than double, how do you think it would not affect my children? If you go to higher institutions the facilities are not there. Instead they are all going about establishing their own private schools so their own children would remain on top and less privileged children would remain at the bottom."
Friday marked the opening the Virtual University of Uganda, the first of it’s kind in Sub-Saharan Africa, reports AllAfrica.com. Although distance learning has been common among Uganda’s universities, schools typically use a blended learning model, where parts of the courses are still taught in person. The new school will be 100 percent online.
The hopes are high for the virtual university, according to its vice chancellor Deirde Carbine. She promised the school would be operated “in a creative and challenging way to provide first-class education that can rival, and even surpass, the traditional full-time program where one teacher stands in a classroom teaching one class, for one timetable hour.”
Still, Carbine and her colleagues face challenges, such as the need to educate the general public about online education. “It’s novel in Uganda and not properly understood or appreciated even by those who have regular access to the internet,” said Minister for Higher Education John Chrysostom Muyingo. “The onus is not only on the university but the government as well to continue sensitizing the public as well as ensuring high quality standards to soothe naysayers.”
In Mbarara, a region in Western Uganda, teachers have allegedly been turning students away from school and stopping them from taking important tests for not paying fees - which are being charged illegally. Officials are increasing their efforts to identify and punish these teachers, reports The Daily Monitor.
Uganda has a free universal education policy through elementary school, but many schools continue to charge families money, citing inadequate government funding and framing the exchange as a “parent-teacher arrangement.”
Schools in rural Mbarara ask for between 15,000 and 20,000 schillings (about $6 or $7), while in towns the price can jump to 100,000 schillings - nearly $39.
"We are not defying government position on [universal primary education], but the amount demanded is an arrangement between the schools, teachers and parents to improve the welfare of teachers," a head teacher told The Monitor. Parents, however, thought it was the government’s responsibility to provide more, while government officials suggested requiring parents contributions in ways that wouldn’t shut some students out of school.
"If they say the money they are charging is a parent-teacher arrangement, why punish the pupils? Let them find other ways of making the parents pay but not punishing the pupils," said Mbarara Resident District Commissioner Clement Kandole.
Ghana has made great strides in improving access to higher education, according to the World Bank. Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank vice president for the Africa Region, praised the country this week for increase its college enrollment from 14,500 in 2004 to 150,000 in 2010, reports the Ghana News Agency.
The World Banks has called on other African countries to learn from Ghana’s success story, saying. “African universities need to pay more attention to quality and relevance of higher education to economic growth and competitiveness… World class institutions will emerge in Africa only if governments accept that these institutions have to be run by education specialists, not political appointees.”
Worldwide, about a quarter of college-aged people are enrolled in higher education. In Africa, that number is closer to six percent.
As the world’s population hit 7 billion this weekend, the Irish Times took the opportunity to look at the strain exploding populations are putting on government services, like education, in Africa. Kenya, for example, adds about a million to it’s population each year; it’s predicted to grow from 41 million today to 85 million in 2050. Neighboring Uganda is expected to grow even faster, leaping from 32.4 million today to more than 80 million in 2050.
The bottom line is that African countries are scrambling to keep up with feeding and educating their children:
At St Bernadette’s primary school near Jinja in the east of the Uganda, Sr Lucy Kabagweri looks proudly at the new school building erected this year. “We started building two floors, but the population was growing so fast that we had to add another,” says the Sacred Heart nun.
Of St Bernadette’s 22 teachers, eight are paid by the government. The others are financed by contributions from parents, most of whom are too poor to feed their children. Among the 905 pupils, only about 50 receive a solid lunch of rice and beans every day. The others get maize porridge which the school provides for free.
“Ninety-six per cent of children who should be in school are in school,” says an education adviser with a diplomatic mission in Kampala, up from 85 per cent in 2000. “[But] the quality of education is not good, morale of teachers is low and materials for children scarce meaning there is a low completion rate (60 per cent).”