Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Putting People First

 "Putting people First", William Henry Harrison (1840) US presidential campaign slogan in the . These were the opening remarks by Prof. Yasin Olum at a networking meeting of CSOs and Councilors held on 24th January, 2013 at Grand global hotel, Kampala. What has CSOs done to put people first? As a fast growing CSO in the Rwenzori region, RWECO embarked on an action monitoring exercise with Mr. Celestin Mugisha from CEWIT. The monitoring was intended to gather facts and figures on the ongoing projects implemented by RWECO in the Rwenzori Region. What is the driving force behind RWECO's interventions- all is based on enhancing civic competence- the people are the key targets and working with the people to deliver the action. 
RWECO staff sharing notes with Mr. Celestine Mugisha (middle) during the people based monitoring in the Rwenzori Region

The people are better placed to determine their destiny if well guided by their leaders and the CSOs as  actors who  trigger  people driven change and development. CSOs are accountable to  the people they serve as well as elected leaders. While CSOs position themselves to serve the people, its increasingly becoming clear that, without the people themselves then development might not achieve its intended objectives. Thus, as we move to implement activities in 2013  let us put people first as the driving force to development.

Jimmy B.O

Monday, January 28, 2013

Ministry deploys technology to track absentee teachers


Posted  Tuesday, January 29  2013 at  02:00
Alarming cases of absenteeism of teachers and students could become history if new software to be used in schools and districts takes effect.
According to Mr Joseph Eilor, the assistant commissioner for education planning, the new technology is going to be piloted in 1,800 primary and secondary schools both spread across 60 districts, starting next Monday when the new term opens.
He said 5,400 teachers and 240 district education officers, chief administrative officers, inspector of schools and town clerks have been trained on how to use the new technology.
“The people we have trained must exhibit a high level of integrity by giving us the correct data because technology alone will not solve the problem of ghosts or absenteeism, or the whole initiative will be useless,” he said.
Speaking to journalists in Kampala yesterday, Mr Eilor, who also doubles as the coordinator of the programme, said the District Education Management Information System (Demis) programme is expected to instantly link critical school data, such as teacher and student attendance, directly from schools into the National Education Management Information System at the Ministry of Education headquarters.
The purpose
“With this technology it will be easier to know what is going on in schools, districts and this will provide us with relevant and functional information for planning, management and evaluation of the sector at the school, district and national levels,” he added.
A 2009 report by a Dutch agency, SNV, ranked teacher absenteeism in Uganda the highest in the world at 35 per cent, with teachers guaranteed to miss at least two days of work each week.
Mr Eilor said schools under the pilot programme connected to the power grid will use computers to enter data while those without power will use smart phones and short message service (SMS).
“USAID, who are sponsoring this initiative, took the responsibility of procuring those items and we are optimistic that they will be available for use in all the pilot schools by Monday next week,” he said
The project is funded by USAID to a tune of $2.9 million (about Shs7.8 billion).
If the new technology works out, it will come as a relief to the ministry, which has taken a beating for doing little about teacher and pupil absenteeism in the government aided schools.

Accessed on Tuesday 29th January 2013 from: 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Uneb notes slight improvement

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Education Minister Jessica Alupo receives the PLE results
Education Minister Jessica Alupo receives the PLE results from UNEB chairman Fagil Mandy yesterday. PHOTO BY ISAAC KASAMANI.  
By Al-mahdi Ssenkabirwa

Posted  Tuesday, January 22  2013 at  02:00
The Ministry of Education yesterday released the 2012 Primary Leaving Examination results, indicating a slight improvement in performance compared to 2011.
There was a two per cent improvement.
However, Uneb, the national examiner, did not give figures of candidates under free primary education, who passed despite them constituting 81.9 per cent of the total number of candidates who sat the exams.
This could create suspicion that the government deliberately conceals information regarding performance of UPE beneficiaries, who are widely believed to perform poorer than their counterparts in private or non-UPE schools.
English best performed
“That is very difficult to compute and it will require us to look at each UPE school and get their performance, which we cannot do now,” said Mr Matthew Bukenya, the Uneb executive secretary.
The 2012 candidates, were the 15th batch of pupils who sat under the UPE programme.
English was the best performed subject, followed by Social Studies and Religious Education. Integrated Science, which was the best done subject in 2011, was the worst in 2012 after Mathematics, which has been performed poorly the past five years.
“The reports from chief examiners indicated that generally, the quality of candidates’ work has improved, compared to that of the previous years,” Mr Bukenya said.
He also pointed out that the improvement in Division One saw the pass rate rise to 10.9 per cent, compared to 9.6 per cent in 2011. Division One pass rate was 8.6 per cent (42,195) in 2010.
There were 11,171 centres across the country, with 8,774 scouts deployed to oversee the smooth running of the exam.
Candidates who scored between Divisions one to four are deemed to have passed and can enrol for any post-primary examination conducted by Uneb .
Urban areas are still performing better than rural areas, according to Uneb statistics.
A total of 565,663 pupils registered to sit PLE last year, up from 535,933 in 2011 but only 543,071 showed up for the exams, indicating that 20,989 (3.7 per cent) were absent .
Education Minister Jessica Alupo, who released the exams at Statistics House, Kampala, expressed concern over perennial absenteeism at PLE, saying it defeats the government‘s free education policy.
“It is disturbing for government to sponsor a child from P.1 only to drop out at the last minute in P.7,” she said.
Uneb chairman Fagil Mandy warned school heads against selling exam results to parents, saying the practice had reached alarming levels, particularly in up-country schools.
At Statistics House conference hall in Kampala where results were released, ministry officials battled an enthusiastic crowd of parents and school head teachers, anxious to see how their pupils performed in the 2012 PLE.
The large turn-up did not help as ministry officials insisted: “Go away please. We keep telling you results are not given from here. You will find them tomorrow [today at Uneb]. ”
Ms Alupo also revealed that selection for Senior One, which had earlier been set for January 30, would be conducted on January 31 and February 1 at Wonder World Amusement Park –Kansanga, Kampala, while Senior One students will report for the first term on February 18.

Accessed from the daily monitor on 22/01/2013: 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

300 Miners derive their livelihoods from Katwe Salt Lake

In 2011, I posed a question of how we use our time during public holidays and Christmas break that is usually a spending period as evidenced during the 2012 Christmas break where I took off time to study the trends and events in Kasese District for which nearly all food was imported from neighboring districts. While I could not get the best answer, I tried an experiment with my own children as students  asking them how they would spend their Christmas break ( just  like Pavlov who was  criticized for using his own children to study  human conditioning ).
You guess the answers as going to the beach, we need to drink soda, visit grand pa, eat meat, rice  the shopinglist was endless. As a good parent, I took the children for an execution on Friday 28th December, 2012 to Katwe Kabatooro Town Council, where one of the creator lakes that serves the region with rock salt is mined: I remembered, Katwe Kabatooro would serve many purposes: As a learning center with the Salt Lake, fishing in Lake Edward, a community tourist information Center and National Park. Indeed, I achieved my objectives, at the salt lake, we met one guide: Kanjanju George who moved us around the salt lake explaining how  salt was extracted from the lake, processes and stages of getting the rock salt. On the good note, I was interested in the business cycle and the benefits to the community: Armed with books and pens the students were taking notes that informed my understanding of parents involvement in being part of learning. I noted from the information given by the guide Mr. George that Katwe salt lake was about 7km, and had over 250 salt panes, and served both the East   and Central African Markets. That majorly they used traditional methods of mining salt for which it posed a health hazard to the miners (men). About the uses, that rock salt was used for domestic use and animal leaking, also to make cosmetics and soap.  My students who are in S2 and S4, and primary had got what they wanted, George took them to the cave that had been there for over 300 years which the early men used to store salt, shelter babies and now is being used as a tourist point. The students also got a chance of viewing the migratory birds at Lake Munyanyange as George had explained how the birds move from Europe during winter to Africa and were tracked to settle at the salt lake. 
Students at the Cave at Katwe Salt Lake ( 28 Dec. 2012). Good parenting is key to improved academic performance

After the tour of the salt lake, I went further to ask our guide how trade is conducted at the salt lake. Mr. George estimated that about 300 men were involved in extracting salt from the lake, and 200 women as middlemen- that was because women do not get into the salt lake as its highly concentrated.  About the price: a bag of 100kg rock salt  is sold at Ugx. 30,000/ to the middlemen who sell it to the transporters at Ugx. 50,000/. The costs, loading a sack of 100kg, shs. 3000/, LG tax, 2900. That about 5 tracks on average are loaded with atleast 150-200 sacks.  Also the guides earn at least Ugx. 10,000/ per day/tour which takes 3 hours. From the salt lake we moved to the water spring which is believed to be safe and clean for drinking right from the rock that feeds into the salt lake. George noted that on good day he can get three groups.  With that knowledge, we met the Town Clerk, Katwe Kabatooro Town Council who had gone to monitor business at the salt lake. The Town Clerk noted that, it was rare for parents to bring their children for such visit instead they spend time in towns, without minding about the education of the children.
We moved to the landing site where we met the fishermen and middlemen in business, the students had never seen how fisher men go about their business using the traditional boat/canoe. We moved to track the elephants in Queen Elephants National Park, being mindful of the fees, we moved along the Katwe-Kabatooro road, just a few meters from Katwe Technical Institute, we met a hard of Elephants, worth hog, Uganda Cobs, a head of us were Antelopes.  
My concern now is how the students will use the information from the tour to enhance their learning instead of going to the beach it was rather a learning visit. I believe, parents can give direction to their children and spend their time wisely.
As a policy analyst, I got my pick from the guide at Katwe Salt lake of raising lack revenue by improving on the infrastructure at the salt lake. The stores that were built by the then Kasese District Administration are laying idle- what about Kasese District Local Government improving on these stores to the required standard that would earn a dollar to the district. Boosting the local tourism is yet another area that Kasese district could venture into by supporting communities around key tourist features to utilize the booming business thus the expanding on the taxable base.
The answer to my question posed in 2011 will eventually be answered of how we use our time during public holidays and Christmas break. While I read the presentation by Prof. Joseph E. Stiglitz on  Market Failures in the Financial System: Implications for Financial Sector Policies, Especially in Developing Countries  and the responses by Prof.  Mahmood Mamdani: 20th Annual Joseph Mubiru lecture, Response to Joseph Stiglitz, Munyonyo Conference Centre, 16th July, 2012. I have realized that instead of our local governments complaining of declining tax base, we need to spend our time thinking of how to raise revenues since the government was the trigger to economic development.

Wish you a happy new year 2013
Jimmy B. Odyek