Whose (education) objectives?

28 May, 2008

In the Katine Chronicles (May 23rd, 2008), Madeline Bunting has written on the state of education in Uganda

Her article highlights the problems caused by the pursuit of inappropriate objectives. In this case Universal Primary Education, simply interpreted as having all primary school age in school. The government of Uganda was required to prioritise this objective, as one of the conditions associated with the provision of debt relief by international donors.

“The pressure to meet the MDG [millennium development goal] on education has forced Uganda into a desperate overexpansion of the education system, argued some of those I met. Stephen Ochola, for example, the district chairman of Soroti, believes that the MDGs have brought the Ugandan education system almost to its knees. Huge classes of 75 children are common and they rarely have enough books, let alone desks and chairs. Teachers have to share blackboards and eke out chalk. Ochola argues that children are sitting in school for years, learning next to nothing.”

This development begs the question of what AMREF’s objectives are for the development of education in Katine. And whose objectives are these? Are they those of the Minister of Education in Kampala, those of the Soroti District authorities, or the communities associated with each of the 13 schools in Katine sub-county? It is clear that there are differences in views about what is needed between the Soroti and Kampala, and its possible there may also be differences of views between various communities in Katine, and Soroti.

Madeline’s article prompted me to revisit the AMREF project documents, to see how the education objectives had been specified. In the Monitoring and Evaluation Plan (Nov 2007and Jan 2007) there are three indicators for desired changes in children’s education status (and many others about the education process). These are:

  • Primary school completion rates
  • Percentage of children aged 6 to 12 attending school
  • Percentage of orphans age 6-12 years attending school

As far as I am aware there are not yet any targets for expected achievements on these indicators, so it is not yet possible to identify how closely these objectives relate to national targets versus what the district, sub-county or local communities think is realistic and desirable. The issue of appropriate targets needs discussion with stakeholders in Katine and elsewhere. The issue of quality of education also needs some attention,… is completion of primary school an adequate indicator, capturing the type of changes that AMREF and its partners want to see happen?

On this last point it was interesting to see that in the Minutes of the Katine stakeholder meeting on April 3rd 2008, under “Key questions/ issues raised by stakeholders”, there is the following bullet point:

  • Education focused on attendance. There was a need to look at literacy levels and include out of school youth also. Education kept being mentioned as a key priority by district officials.
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