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.

 

 

SIM card registration in Uganda: When Data management and transparency is tested

Photo credit: Infrastructure magazine

In April 2017, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) ordered a 7 days ultimatum demanding Ugandan citizens to register their SIM cards with local service providers using their national identity cards or risk deactivation. The move by government is defended on grounds of safeguarding national security and curbing crime in Uganda.

While the decision behind the initiative may qualify to be positive, the requirements asked of citizens to register their SIM cards is problematic. SIM cards belong to individuals who purchase them for personal use. However, the deactivation and registration deadline was agreed upon by selected committee comprised of the Police Chief,  UCC officials and service providers from different Telecom companies.  This seemed like a transparency trap since decisions affecting the wider public were discussed by few stakeholders without the involvement of the user department i.e the citizens.

In a transparent environment, sharing information with all stakeholders is very important. Ugandan citizens deserve better  transparency through sharing information and sensitization from UCC as to why SIM card registration is important, and  reasons for the preference of the national ID unlike other nationally issued identifications.This will result into good cooperation from the wider public, less speculation and rumors.

Being open and honest about all aspects in a given environment is advantageous, because it positions you in such a way that you can quickly and efficiently respond to problems and controversy if it arises.

Data management theater

Uganda has other agencies like the Ministry of Internal affairs where the national passport issuance agency i.e the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration is housed. Before obtaining a Uganda passport, verification and recommendation from local leaders, birth certificates, recommendation from Ugandan passport holders etc are required.

In fact, the data requested for by the Passport issuance agency is substantial and good enough for National Identification and Registration Authority-NIRA to update their systems. Further still, we also have Face technology which issues out computerized national driving permits and without it, one can never traverse Ugandan roads. Obtaining this too requires verification from police, doctors during eye check amongst others.

Despite having citizen’s bio-data with different agencies in addition to the growth of the ICT sector in Uganda, there is a missing link regards to the data harmonization and management framework between the data based agencies. This automatically brings us to the data-management theater Uganda is facing now!

Where is the problem

Uganda does not have a harmonized data management portal where key citizen information is securely posted, kept and updated. In fact the SIM card registration ultimatum exposed a lot of data management loopholes within the government agencies.

If Uganda had just one institution responsible for data management and safety, information from the Face technology, Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration, National Social Security Fund, police etc would be  easily harmonized. In any case of loopholes, citizens would be informed to update their information.

Without a harmonized system, a person can easily use a deceased’s details to register his/her SIM simply because the system tracking death and birth is independent of one issuing national IDs.

The SIM registration exercise itself has exposed the poor cooperation between some government agencies in Uganda. For instance, if UCC could only cooperate with ICT agency and others having citizen’s data, it would be simpler to access information required of citizens.

Therefore, the government could consider doing the following to improve its data management and handling practice.

  • Harmonizing all registration data bases with NIRA to avoid duplication of services and wastage of taxpayers’ money.
  • Sensitize masses on the need for registration instead of ordering ultimatums backed with justifications not easily understood by the common man.
  • Do not align the national ID to only SIM card registration. People will easily interpret it as a SIM ID.

Embrace Open Justice to improve judicial transparency and accountability in Uganda

open Justice
Justice Steven Kavuma greets Justice Anglin Flavia Senoga at his arrival to grace the opening of New Law Year at High Court in Kampala (Photo credit: RedPepper)

Continue reading “Embrace Open Justice to improve judicial transparency and accountability in Uganda”

Performance of Uganda’s health Sector; Can increased financial allocation improve service delivery?

A woman in labor rested in the delivery room of the hospital in Arua (photo credit: NewyorkTimes)

Uganda’s human development especially the health sector is ranked 20th on the continent  at a score of 70.3 in the Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance 2015. To her credit, Uganda’s health sector has  registered improvements over the last four financial Years ( 2013/14- 2016/17), including the expansion of provider networks, abolishing of patient user- fees, sustained management of HIV patients amongst other achievements.

Despite the progressive markers, improvements have been unevenly distributed with a clear and persistent urban-rural gap.Though health related gender outcomes such as access to maternal health care have improved, they are slowed down by worrisome indicators like high fertility rates.

While a healthy citizenry is paramount for  the socio-economic stability and sustainable development of Uganda, this is not a product of the health sector alone, but also improved sector  financial allocation,  sector prioritization in the national budget and effective policy implementation.

What is Uganda’s health sector  financial Stand?

Uganda’s health sector remains significantly under-funded, mainly relying on private sources of financing especially out-of-pocket spending, thus making it difficult  to attain sector targets.

At less than 10% of its budget to health care, public spending on health is less than the 15% agreed upon in the Abuja Declaration by heads of African states.The current funding of US$ 27 per capita per annum expenditure on health care is far below the US$ 44 per capita recommended.

In principle, a good health financing system raises adequate funds for health in ways that ensure people can use needed services, and are  also protected from financial catastrophe or impoverishment associated with having to pay for them.

Generally, the health status of Ugandans remains poor, characterized with a low level of life expectancy and a high level of mortality undermining the efforts and investments for social and economic development.

Health sector allocation for the last Four financial years

Financial Year Amount allocated  % on the national budget Status
2013/2014 1,142.83 8.60% Moderate
2014/2015 1,197.80 8% Moderate
2015/2016 1270.8 7% Reduced
2016/2017 1.385 7% Low

Relationship between  health budget and  sector allocation  for the last four financial years ( Data  Source :CSBAG ,MoFPED)

In FY 2013/2014 and 2014/2015, the health sector received  approximately 9% of the national budget. In the period, a reduction of maternal mortality rates  was seen i.e from 168 per 100,000 in FY 2012/13 to 146 per 100,000 in 2013/14 . This was attributed to  recruitments  i.e deployment of midwives and other health workers, availability of medical equipment to health facilities and  60% health units having enough medicine.

Despite the moderate financial allocation, Local Government health services financing was inadequate. Financing of primary prevention initiatives at the district level was minimal thus leaving Civil society Organizations to fill gaps. Further still, recurrent budgets under the  Primary Health Care (PHC) grant still show limited improvement.

In FY 2014/2015 – 2015/2016,  sectoral budget allocation  was reduced from 8% -7%. At 7%,  nine hospitals  were constructed with World Bank support equivalent to US$ 52 million. i.e Moroto, Mityana  Nakaseke, Kiryandongo, amongst others. Ten (10) ambulances for Kampala metropolitan area were procured by the Ministry of Health contributing to a reduction in continued Maternal Mortality Ratio through implementation and distribution of Emergency Obstetric Care (EmONC) lifesaving medicines.

Projections for 2017/2018 Health  Sector Performance.

In FY 2017/18,  continuous implementation of a plan to accelerate investments in maternal, newborn and child health  is underway.This proposes five strategic shifts reflecting a paradigm shift in the reproductive, maternal, neonatal, child and adolescent health(RMNCAH) agenda. i.e targeting areas with highest number of deaths, increasing access for high burden populations,placing emphasis on evidence based high impact interventions,  amongst other plans.

Whereas, the Ministry of health has outlined good proposals to advance the health standards of Uganda’s citizens, achievement is doubtable if the  health sector budget is reducing financial year after another. With a limited budget allocation, the ministry has little to deliver.

Though the burden of maternal and perinatal deaths was addressed at policy level by launching and beginning Implementation of a reproductive health maternal, newborn and child health (RHMNCH) sharpened plan 2013 to accelerate reduction of maternal, newborn and child mortality; sectoral priority to attract, recruit and retain staff to offer Maternal and Newborn care services could remain on paper due to continuous sectoral cuts.

Going Forward

Prioritization health sector financing in the national budget is key for implementation of the sectoral plans, ensure universal health coverage and improve service delivery for the betterment of Ugandans health services. Adequate financing of the health sector will provide all people with access to needed health services (including prevention, promotion, treatment and rehabilitation) of sufficient quality to be effective and ensure that the use of these services does not expose the citizens to financial hardships who mainly depend on 2 dollars a day for survival.