Open Education: How open data could improve Uganda’s education system

Open education
Photo credit: Center for Education Innovations

 

As the sun rises on such a beautiful Wednesday morning, my thoughts cannot be separated from what has happened in Uganda for the last three months.

But, as of today, let’s talk about one of the country’s key sectors–the Education sector.

I acknowledge that Uganda’s education sector has gone through a serious trajectory,  but it’s important to focus on the now and the future. We are certain that Uganda’s Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) released the Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) on the January 12th, 2018. On a positive note,  i applaud the institution for the timely release; for it has provided parents with enough time to make decisions on their children’s next chapter. Kudos!

 However, at the just concluded PLE release, the MOES  that out of the 646,190 candidates who sat the exams, 57,198 passed in first grade, 293,977 in Second, 128,573 in Third, 91,504 in Fourth while 57,354 completely failed the exams.as highlighted below.

Education data
Data source: Daily Monitor

Whereas the MoES highlighted an improvement in pupil’s performance as compared to 2016, a number of pupils and parents were disgruntled and never satisfied with the results.

Let’s also acknowledge that parents and pupils also have a right to an opinion, but, how do their opinions affect the education system and the future PLE candidates?

 Where is the problem

While making a press briefing on the PLE results, the MoES officials noted that pupils failed in subjects which required applying knowledge in problem-solving situations or freely express themselves. To them candidates were more comfortable with questions that are direct and based on recall.  

However, as a parent and well wisher, i am interested in the data on what translates to scoring a 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc grade! Is it academic excellence, marks, handwriting  or favoritism of certain schools against others?  When i dug deeper into the PLE website, such important information is also missing on the website yet it qualifies to be public information.

For preparation of future candidates, such information should be in the open and accessed by all parents and citizens. This is not a matter of national security, but integrity of the esteemed institutions responsible for setting, marking  and supervising the exams. With no data to answer people’s questions to understand the system better, this has reduced Ugandans to social media news! —false or right will be tackled next time!

Furthermore, the MoES  is cognizant of the fact that 13,023,114 Ugandans i.e 31.3% have access to  internet and could use social media to get heard. And if the MoES  and UNEB pays a blind eye, the system will be deemed opaque, biased and of course discriminatory. Using social media escapades, alternative data (since we don’t have official data) has been spreading from  one social media site to another; with information on how the grading for private schools differed from governments’ Universal Primary Education schools.

According to the alternative data, a pupil in a public school only needs a 75% to get a distinction and one in a private school needs 94%! If this is right, I presume that the esteemed ministry would openly inform the public on its decisions, as well as justifications. Further Still, how does the MoES expect dubbed performers to participate in their next leg? Will they  excel or  expelled upon mediocre performance in the senior schools!.

Well, in case its false news, we still expect the MoES to  openly deny the claims for the sanity of the institution. With such information unattended to, some parents will be biased against the educated seniors who have their children’s future in thy hands. In a nutshell, we won’t need to take our children to private schools, and they won’t need to hustle that hard to pass, after all, a distinction is just next door.

How  the situation affects the Ugandan economy?

With a non transparent system for grading pupils, the MoES and UNEB  could be indirectly impeding the performance and excellence of the future workers, innovators and employees. If someone is used to getting things done on a silver platter, at such a tender age, this will be his or her attitude once faced with challenges, ultimately contributing to economic slowdown.

Ministry of Education and Uganda National Examinations Board—  could do better

To improve on the openness and transparency of the grading system; which are key ingredients of a good democracy, we should have the same grading for private and public schools in Uganda. This will not only restore trust in Uganda’s education system but also produce the best future employees for the nation.

The Ministry can do better if only grading parameters are  displayed on their website. A publicized memo could do a lot of transparency instead of making decisions in boardrooms and implementing them on the entire population.This could save Uganda from the premier of the education transparency theater which is threatening to happen.

One thing for sure, the government should invest in the UPE schools as private school owners do. Can we first rethink of the tutors salary, followed by collaborative efforts between parents and government to jointly contribute to the scholastic materials, food etc? This will not only improve the environment of  the learners but also their performance.

Conclusion

Lets focus on the pupil-teacher environment to improve Uganda’s public education system,  disclose the grading parameters to citizens for better preparation of candidates  for such important exams and  bring parents on board by reminding them on their role in pupils performance. This will not only contribute to effective information flow and transparency, but will produce academic giants ready to take the nation to the next level.

For God and my country.


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Can Data about police practice improve citizen people relations with Uganda’s Police?

 

 

policeopendata
Image credit : GCN

For those following developments about police practice in Uganda, less surprising the few months into 2017 have not been the best  of moments for  Uganda’s national force.

Painting the Picture: What could the police be doing wrong?

In the concluded  procurement and disposal audit on Uganda’s national force conducted by the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA), the custodians of law and order were qualified  for Issuance of local purchase orders (LPOs) and contracts on expired bids,  failure to state procurement timelines on the entity’s procurement plan amongst other opinions.

This could be a result of internal data management systems gone wrong! We can as well call it  a data manipulation because, a well-managed data system promotes an integrated view of any institutions operations and a clearer view of the big picture. It becomes much easier to see how actions in one segment of the  entity affects others. If only Uganda’s national force had one, probably LPOs would not be issued on expired bids. Despite the flows, the police budget has been steadily increasing over years, thanks to the Inspector General of Police. However,  its un-justifiable if the budget increment is felt by the ordinary police officers since subject data is limited and/or un-found .

Contemplating about open data and data practice in the Uganda’s national force, the Inspector General of Police, General Kayihura in his foreword to Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) Sector Strategic Plan for Statistics for Uganda Police Force (2006/07 – 2010/11),  highlighted that the statistical process in the Uganda Police is poor, inaccurate, uncoordinated and not time-sensitive.  Ten years down  his reign,  the force is still experiencing the same data management theater.

Without good data management, exacerbated with increased opacity in the force’s operations, citizens could simply misinterpret and misunderstand Uganda’s police decisions and work ethics. Why? Because they will have  ample time to stereotype and perceive. No wonder,  our force is continuously ranking as one of the most corrupt institutions in Uganda, and  the most corrupt East African Region institution according to the Transparency International East Africa Bribery Index.  This is not because they are so badly off in that sphere, but  could be because they do not adhere to open data, transparency and accountability  practices by being closed-off from the  public.

A glimpse  into the force’s budget discipline depicts Fy 2017/2018  as  one of their good years but, teargas tops priority on their budget with 44 billion Uganda shillings earmarked for the purchase of teargas to control crowds and  UGX 51.1 bil­lion for handling post-election violence.

The time to find good solutions to these problems is now.

Uganda’s national force could do better only if it prioritizes data management, access to information and increased focus on transparency. In a transparent institution, data availability, combined with the tools that transform data into usable information, empowers end users to make quick, informed decisions that can make the difference between success and failure.

As custodians of law and order, the Uganda’s Police  should invest in increasing access to information about their work, initiate mechanisms to increase the flow of public information on  what police officers are doing in their official roles, how they are doing it, and how they are fulfilling their responsibility to ensure public safety. This will not only restore public trust and confidence in Uganda’s police but push them steps ahead into the transparency curve.

 

 

Using open data to strengthen human rights reporting and awareness creation in Uganda

With access to data by selected individuals and agencies, information could be used for selfish interests while limiting the additional pathways to raise awareness to human rights issues like describing a vivid story and sparking grassroots advocacy initiatives, while grounding these issues within a local context rather than relying so heavily on international initiatives with a Western lens.

On the other hand, lack of a centralized human rights data base affects human rights monitoring and reporting as each party interprets and reports what they have, but not what is actually on ground.

Photo Credit: Human Rights Network for Journalists Uganda- HRNJ

Uganda has an impressive legal framework like the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda 1995, chapter four of which highlights the fundamental human rights enjoyed by Citizens. Other laws include; the Access to Information Act 2005, Whistle blowers Act 2010, Anti corruption Amendment Act 2015, Anti torture Act among others.

The country prides in having an institutional framework supporting implementation, monitoring and reporting of laws namely, the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) whose mandate is spelt out in Article 52 of the Constitution, accredited with A status by the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions.

Law enforcement agencies like Uganda’s National Police force have a Directorate of Human rights and legal services, while Uganda People Defense Force (UPDF) has a human rights department.  Further more, Uganda has courts of law which administer justice and safeguard human rights. Through her institutional framework like the Uganda Human Rights Commission, Ugandans are sensitized on their human rights, access and protection thereof.

Overview on human rights performance In Uganda

Despite the legal, institutional and policy mechanisms, Uganda’s human rights performance remains dismal as human rights are under siege. The Global Integrity report 2011 conducted in 31 countries highlighted Uganda as having a low implementation gap with a score of 52%, with an excellent legal framework awarded at 98%, giving the country an implementation gap of 46%.

In Uganda, leaders have succeeded inculcating the minds of the citizens that human rights are no longer entitlements but tokens and privileges dangled out by the leaders. For example, while Ugandans have  the right to freedom of association, expression, movement and association as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, it has controversial laws like the Public Order Management Act 2013 and NGO Act  2016 which  could rob citizens of their rights.

The POMA requires citizens to seek permission from Police to hold a public gathering, which permission is often selectively or never guaranteed. Concerns about violations of freedom of association, assembly, and expression continued during and after Uganda’s February 2016 elections where the leaders of opposition were not allowed to gather for their cause and arrest of citizens under the disguise of idleness. Institutions like the Uganda National Police Force, Uganda People Defense Force and Courts which are supposed to safeguard human rights, are commonly cited at the center of the abuse.

During the 2016 elections, disenfranchisement of voters due to late delivery of polling materials in Kampala and Wakiso was cited, disenfranchisement of Ugandans in the diaspora, detainees, media was unable to operate freely and journalists were attacked and restricted while covering the elections, limited freedom of assembly especially for opposition candidates and supporters and excessive use of force by security agencies. This could be interpreted to mean that, human rights are no longer inalienable but offered as a piecemeal.

Despite having documentation of numerous human rights atrocities in Uganda, data sets on human rights reporting seem invisible. This alone can bring bias in human rights reporting; limit action on human rights injustices by interested actors as well as hinder awareness creation efforts.

Current Reality

Uganda has numerous human rights activists and agencies finding difficulty in accessing human rights data sets as each party  i.e activists and government has an independent database for individual use.

With access to data by selected individuals  and agencies, information could be used for selfish interests while limiting the additional pathways to raise awareness to human rights issues like describing a vivid story and sparking grassroots advocacy initiatives, while grounding these issues within a local context rather than relying so heavily on international initiatives with a Western lens.

On the other hand, lack of a centralized human rights data base affects human rights monitoring and reporting as each party interprets and reports what they have, but not what is actually on ground.

Whereas the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) is mandated to document cases of human rights abuses throughout the country, its work and operation are curtailed by limited funding and staffing. As a result, instead of carrying out independent documentation, UHRC relies on police records and cases only brought forward and registered in their offices.

Furthermore, even civil society actors  seem to operate in isolation, each with its own data. This makes national outlook on human rights reporting incomplete.

How open data strengthens human rights reporting  and awareness creation.

To curb human rights violations, open data advocacy and data analysis should be applied in reporting human rights violations. Good data analysis by human rights groups will help bolster litigation cases, and technology will provide free and open access to the data that governments and the public possess.

Access to data can make it to be used more widely and effectively in cases. With increased access, data could be open to analysis by a larger range of actors, including a variety of local human rights groups, which could help mitigate bias. With few people accessing human rights violation data, it is much easier to paint a subjective picture within a court of law.

Therefore, using data to tell a story, analysis, visualization and reporting can play a huge role in stimulating grassroots engagement campaigns or legislative policy advocacy. The end result can present an opportunity to utilize these strategies to monitor human rights.

Conclusion

Having a central database for human rights violation in Uganda is important to ease access to human rights violation cases by human rights groups, Journalists, state agencies and general public as a whole. While all actors i.e Civil Society, Journalists and state agencies may be inputting cases in the data portal, with centralized information, it’s anticipated that government will ease access to justice for the human rights victims.

With the database, parties will able to hold others accountable because performance benchmarks will be accessed by all i.e rate of disposing off cases, access to justice and evidence based data driven compelling stories will be produced by media without bias.