The Uganda National NGO Forum on Monday held a public forum to engage government, stakeholders in the opposition and the public to take stock of the first one year of the ruling NRM party and assess its achievements.
During the 2016 elections, President Yoweri Museveni fronted a manifesto with a focus on taking Uganda into modernity through job creation and inclusive development.
With one year since the NRM won the elections, many ponder whether the government is on course to fulfill its promises including provision of quality education, health care and employment or whether it will fall short of the pledges at the end of the five year term.
However during Monday’s forum held at Golf Course Hotel, some opposition expressed dissatisfaction in what government as accomplished in the one year period, which they said is a repetition of consistent failure to deliver.
Former Serere MP and FDC deputy President for Eastern region Alice Alaso and the MP for Masaka municipality Mathias Mpuuga punched holes in NRM’s promises claiming the progress in addressing the issue that affect the majority is insignificant.
“We are discussing an old government in a new year with old systems. President Museveni promised to revamp the education sector but the Minister of Finance recently blocked the enrollment of new teachers,” Mpuga said, adding, “We are addressing exhaustion and a toll that a 30 year journey can take on a government.”
The DP politician criticized the NRM party for failing to balance investment in the social wellbeing of majority of Ugandans and infrastructure projects, which he said has increasing poverty.
It is however the issue of education that stood out in the discussion with Makerere University academic and scholar of Political Science, Dr. Suzie Muwanga referring to the universal education programs (UPE and USE) as promoting ‘half-baked students’.
“Human resource is at the centre of reaching middle income status. There has been no improvement in the quality of education apart from numerically increasing the number of children in school,”
Making reference to 33 years ago, Dr. Muwanga said Makerere University used to send students without an additional reference letter to go and study in universities in the U.S.
She said that these students some of whom had studied from non-private schools in Uganda competed favorably with international students but the trend has since changed.
“Today, I can assure you and my fellow professors will tell you those students from the UPE and USE is unable to compete by our local standards. It’s a statement of a concept that was not fully thought through and given financial incentives for it to operate,” she added.
The academic stressed that Uganda’s chances to undergo economic transformation largely lies on the quality of human resource being churned out through the education system.
But in response to these concerns, the NRM Vice Chairman for Eastern region Capt. Mike Mukula defended government saying it was ideal to address quantity in the number of beneficiaries of universal education first and deal with the quality of education later.
Mukula said that as opposed to the year 1986 when the NRM government came to power, there are many pupils going to school today.
Mukula told participants in the forum that government has made tremendous progress in boosting the energy capacity through the investments in hydroelectric generation.
“Uganda has come a long way. NRM prides itself in restoring peace across the entire country for the first time ever. We have embarked on infrastructure development which is why we have invested in energy. No country can transform itself without electricity,” Mukula said.
Regarding social services, Capt. Mukula mentioned the ongoing expansion of Mulago hospital where a national maternal centre is being constructed.