HOW FIRST LADY DELIVERED WHERE PREDECESSORS FAILED
By John V Sserwaniko
In mid-2016, UDB Board Chairman Prof Samuel Sejjaaka was hired by the Government of Uganda to assess the performance of all government ministries and make recommendations on how coordination and service delivery would be strengthened. Sejjaaka worked with Mr. Nick Roberts, a consultant who was recommended by Irish Aid which also funded the consultancy. The two consultants, specifically coordinated by the Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, produced their final report in April 2017. At the Education Ministry, the Sejjaaka report disclosed many areas of weakness including ineptness of both the political and technical leadership in years that preceded the posting of First Lady Janet Museveni Kataha as sector minister. It was a 95 page document and pages 72-75 were devoted to Education Ministry.
Without mincing words, Sejjaaka reports that seasoned educationist FX Lubanga’s departure left glaring gaps and deprived the sector of the much needed technical leadership. That Dr. Rose Nassali Lukwago, who replaced him as PS, ushered in a leadership that was “ineffective.” The report adds that “Lubanga was a key driving force” whose successor Nassali was unable to properly steer the Sector Working Group which, at the technical level, is supposed to determine the direction the sector takes. Sejjaaka refers to failure to have new Sector Strategic Development Plan, replacing the Lubanga one that expired in FY2015/16, to illustrate how ineffective the post-Lubanga technical leadership was at Embassy House. The report shows that the political leadership, then headed by Jessica Alupo, was barely any better. One of the things the report notoriously points out is the fact that Alupo and Nassali were at loggerheads and couldn’t talk. “The education Sector Working Group coordination committee has general failed to meet its objectives as a result of the poor working relationship between the top management chaired by the minister [then Alupo]. The minister at that time also had a poor relationship with her Permanent Secretary. Top management stagnated programs as a result of the ensuing lethargy. Poor leadership affected all activities of technical working groups. Government and donor relationships deteriorated with consequent reversion to project mode of financing,” the consultants state in reference to the PS/Minister animosity that prevailed in the pre-Janet era. Consequently, top management meetings during which the top leadership is supposed to hear from departmental heads, didn’t often take place. Sector objectives were too generic and weren’t aligned to priorities set out in NDP II. The report commended Janet and a new PS that had just been appointed, for the numerous undertakings aimed at rectifying the situation. The duo inherited an education policy, in existence since 1992, that needed urgent review. On a marking scale of 36, Sejjaaka rated the pre-Janet performance at 18 (or 50%). External reviews of the sector performance seldom took place and many of the minimum requirements expected to be in place at any ministry, weren’t in place, the consultants note. When it comes to having in place mechanisms for systematic monitoring of program investments into the sector, including donor support, the consultants ranked the education sector of Nassali/Alupo era at C. Prof Sejjaaka also decried the Monitoring & Evaluation framework the Ministry relied on then; arguing that overreliance on Output Budgeting Tool (OBT) didn’t adequately track compliance on the National Development Plan (NDP) objectives. “The [OBT] tool focusses on tracking budget performance rather than outcomes. It is also not cognizant of due process,” the consultants noted on page 73. Because of the infighting and animosity that existed between the PS and other technocrats, the report shows that departmental heads shunned Technical Working Group (TWG) meetings and only attended if sure they could use such “meetings for self-interest.” The same happened with Sector Working Group (SWG) meetings meant for follow on specific implementation tasks previously undertaken. Both SWG and TWG meetings are chaired by the PS who wasn’t seeing eye to eye with many of the technocrats she supervised. Whereas Nassali ensured Joint Annual Sector Review (JASR) meetings were held, the decisions reached were never posted on the sector website to enable the OPM & NPA monitor implementation.
This state of affairs negatively impacted on education sector in many ways including leading to mass staff exodus as the pre-Nassali era technocrats exited having failed to win her trust. She was very vindictive and considered them proxies of her Lubanga her predecessor whom she didn’t like. The relationship was so bad one of the Lubanga era technocrats took her to court for defamation. Subsequently this sour relationship diminished outputs and this caused development partner fatigue towards the sector. As of late 2016, many DPs including World Bank were so disgusted many funding commitments were halted and the matter was accorded significant attention during a subsequent cabinet retreat at Munyonyo where the President tasked the new sector leadership to rectify things.
In this part one of what will be serialized reporting, focusing on Janet Museveni’s first two years at education ministry, we reflect on progress and outputs that have been registered under the Arab-funded projects. Initially secured in 2010 (but didn’t promptly take off partly because of a polarized leadership at the Ministry), the long term concessional (loan) funding came from three Arab Development Partners. These are Islamic Development Bank (IDB), OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) & Saudi Fund for Development (SFD). The entire loan totaled to $48.75m and was contributed as follows: $13.8m from IDB, $22.95m from OFIC and $12m from SFD. Then between 2013 & 2013, another $5m was secured from Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), $14.11m from IDB (meant for 2nd phase) & $11.9m from Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED). At the highest political level, a decision was taken this funding had to go into supporting the broader Skilling Uganda agenda (of which BTVET is part). The MoES naturally had to be the implementing agency though the post-Lubanga era fights there and misunderstandings between the political and technical leadership significantly hampered implementation even when the funding had already been secured. The Skilling Uganda agenda, whose implementation slowed in the pre-Janet era, seeks to achieve a paradigm shift from merely glorifying certificates to a situation that comprehensively prioritizes practical skills acquisition and competence-based learning. There is also an element of increased (mass) access to practical educational opportunities and private sector participation. Private sector is critical because it’s them who know the desired skills. The Arab funding was ideally meant to increase access to quality technical education through construction, renovation and expansion of training facilities at the beneficiary training institutions.
BENEFITS FOR GULU, MBALE & LIRA;
Using the IDB funding, training facilities have been rehabilitated, expanded & equipped at Uganda Technical College (UTC) Elgon in Mbale, UTC in Lira and National Teachers College (NTC) Unyama in Gulu district. Unyama NTC, whose obsolete rusty buildings one time prompted an MP to loudly wonder which type of students trained from such structures, has since been given a new look. When seen from far, the scenery could easily be mistaken for one of the good hotels in Kampala’s peri-urban neighborhoods. Expansion has come in form of new class room blocks, engineering laboratories and training workshops. Also in place is a double-storied student hostel block (with 224 beds) and a medical center. A resource center block, comprising of the library and ICT center, has also been put in place. Other things include a Multi-purpose hall, a new administration block and staff housing blocks. On top of the training materials like text books, computers, new furniture, a Bus and training workshop equipment, Unyama has also benefited with some external works such as paved walk ways. Located 9kms on the Gulu-Kitgum road, Unyama NTC was first established in the 1970s but many of the structures were abandoned before being fully constructed as per the plan.
URA LEVERAGES ON UNYAMA;
Because the new Unyama presents a beautiful scenery, URA sometime back used those same images to show the public what their taxes have done in the past few years (this was during tax payers’ week at Kololo). The two UTCs (Elgon & Lira) got similar infrastructure like Unyama except staff housing, the administration block and multi-purpose hall. Yet that isn’t all. National Curriculum Development Center (NCDC) was brought on board to review curriculum for 5 national diploma programs (namely water & sanitation engineering, Architecture, Refrigeration & Air conditioning, ICT and Industrial Ceramics). A number of tutors also underwent refresher training. Ajiri says Unyama NTC was supported more because of the Education Ministry’s resolve to enhance teacher training (Unyama NTC trains teachers) to improve the teaching/learning of science-based subjects. This is to ensure better quality entrants (from secondary schools) come to BTVET institutions. Ajiri adds that at each of the three benefiting institutions, 90% of the funding went into equipment purchase and infrastructure development. The remaining 10% went into re-training and capacity building for the tutors. He says the demand for tutor capacity building was very high at UTC Mbale and simply exceeded what they could provide.
HANDS ON APPROACH;
Unlike her predecessors, Janet has preferred the hands-on approach and recently checked on the progress at UTC Mbale and this was part of the broader inspection tour she personally made at the different education ministry projects being implemented in eastern Uganda. The inspection tour wasn’t in vain because Ajiri says the stakeholders, including local government leaders, reported to the Minister (Janet) the operational constraints the newly rebuilt Technical College was already facing because of inadequate power supply. Because of inadequate electricity supply, lab equipment hadn’t been properly installed and Ajiri says the (installation & power supply) anomaly is being addressed at Janet’s intervention. The Technical Colleges mostly produce civil engineers at Diploma and Certificate levels. And Ajiri says this is very important because graduates from such Colleges come out adequately equipped with practical skills of the subject and are actually more hands-on than their engineering counter parts from Universities. When they join University to upgrade, they always excel faster than counterparts directly coming from S6. Enrollment at the three institutions (Elgon, Lira & Unyama) has increased from an average 600 to 1,000 students and the Principals there say the attitude of students and parents towards vocational education has generally changed on seeing the excellent infrastructure and beautiful scenery at the newly rebuilt campuses.
We all famously remember the 1998 ADF rebel invasion that saw Uganda Technical College (UTC) Kichwamba burnt and some students killed. Located in Kabarole district, Kichwamba has been rebuilt in the 2nd phase of the IDB funding along with two other UTCs namely Bushenyi and UTC Kyema in Masindi district. This is all done under an intervention technically called Uganda National Education Support (UNES) project. UNES 2 is funded by IDB just like was the case with UNES 1. Whereas Kichwamba & Bushenyi are old institutions, Kyema is fairly new. It only 10 years ago but because of the inadequate investment in infrastructure, it (Kyema) was as dilapidated and badly off as the other two older UTCs. The MoES had to intervene by way of IDB II whose overall objective was to scale up the skilling component to ensure graduates produced have hands-on skills. A lot of investment has gone into infrastructure development and new modern complexes have been put in place significantly changing the scenery at the three respective campuses. Teaching/learning facilities like new spacious lecture rooms, civil, mechanical & electrical engineering laboratories have been put in place as well as library and ICT centers. Others are engineering workshops and a 112 bed capacity student hostel have been constructed where none existed. New furniture, computers, textbooks and workshop equipment have been bought and installed to further enhance teaching and learning. External works such as paving the walk ways have also been undertaken at the three Technical Colleges. Still under this UNES/IDB 2 project, NCDC has been funded to undertake curriculum review on three national diploma programs (namely civil, mechanical & electrical engineering). The three UTCs’ tutors and administrators too have been supported to undertake the much needed in-service training programs to replenish their skills. Ajiri says there have been demands to put up staff houses too but adds that whereas this would be the ideal thing to do, it hasn’t been possible because there is no money for that component. It was never provided in the project design and the MoES has nowhere to get that additional funding now.
Ajiri further explains they haven’t been able to hold commissioning ceremonies, even when such would be desirable to have the public participate in celebration of these new achievements, because of scarce funding. Ajiri gives the example of Elgon UTC in Mbale (under UNES 1) which they publicly commissioned by taking advantage of a graduation ceremony in order to escape the commissioning expenses. Local governments, which are key stakeholders, would ordinarily come in and meet that basic expense but they can’t because, as Ajiri reveals, some of the leaders there have been hostile to the project teams because they never got a chance to participate in the designing and procurements for the construction projects yet they fallaciously think that would be an opportunity to eat something from the contractors. Ajiri, is nevertheless, confident that the UNES intervention will result into the three UTCs being able to re-orient their teaching so as to address more practical skills areas this being a key component of the BTVET program. The attractive infrastructure and scenery at the benefiting institutions has already attracted even engineers who graduated years ago from Universities to quietly re-enroll at these newly revamped UTCs to undertake diploma training in order to enhance their practical skills which is never sufficiently addressed at the University where much emphasis goes on the theoretical training.
The prudence and timeliness with which the Janet leadership has delivered on the earlier two phases IDB/UNES 2 has impressed the IDF funders to offer another $45m. According to Ajiri, this funding that has already been fully approved by the IDP top leadership, will go into phase 3 which targets upgrading 9 already existing technical institutes (TIs) across the country. The TIs are one level below the UTCs and whereas UTCs offer diplomas, the TIs offer certificates and enroll S4 leavers. They produce lower cadre categories like plumbers, electricians who support and work under supervision of diploma holders graduated by UTCs. The 9 TIs will (under IDB/UNES 3) get new infrastructure all aimed at improving their teaching and learning facilities. Ajiri, who has had the opportunity to serve under both the Janet era leadership and her predecessors, says the commitment of another $45m to implement interventions under IDB/UNES phase 3 is indicative of increased development partner confidence in the MoES’ political and technical leadership. As indicated in the Sejjaaka report, this development partner enthusiasm was clearly absent in the pre-Janet era as technocrats and the political leadership concentrated on fighting each other and thereby stalling many would-be good projects.
LOCAL CONTENT/VISION 2040
The ministry leadership secured concurrence of the funding partners (IDB) to award contracts in a manner that is mindful of the GoU local content policy. Norman Ajiri, who is the MoES Projects Technical Manager for all Arab-funded projects, says the consultants and contractors have all been local. He says in the alternative, at least 50% of the company must be Ugandan-owned for them to get contracted. Some of the local companies that have cashed in on the Arab-funded projects include: Amugori General Enterprises, Pearl Engineering Company, Prism Ltd, Ambitious Ltd, Arch Design Ltd, Techno 3 Ltd, Johnson Group, Multiplex Ltd, Eggy Trading Co, Summit Projekts Ltd and Excel Construction among others. Ajiri says that, as a consultant, he is proud to have been part of the team that not only did a good job but also contributed towards the realization of Vision 2040 which is the blue print of the country’s development agenda. “Our role as a sector [education] is to support the realization of development goals as articulated in Vision 2040 through provision of skilled manpower and we are glad under the Arab-funded projects, a lot of that is being realized,” Ajiri says. The broader objective of the BTVET sub sector, which is the major aspiration under the Arab-funded projects, is to produce the required personnel to support sectors like Oil & Gas, Tourism & Hospitality, Entrepreneurship & ICT, Construction, Manufacturing and Commercial Agriculture which the Vision 2040 identifies as key drivers of Uganda’s national economy. Over all, Vision 2040 seeks transform Uganda from a peasantry-based economy to “a competitive upper middle income, modern, self-sustaining & industrialized nation by 2040.” Realization of this grand dream inevitably requires abundant availability of a highly skilled and well trained work force, which the current leadership at the education ministry is determined to deliver partly through the BTVET intervention. For comments, call, text or whatsapp us on 0703164755.