If Hon Janet Museveni is Unfit for Education Docket, then Uganda Needs More Unfit Ministers

The minister of education Hon First Lady Janet Museveni was quoted as saying “If I was not qualified to head the Ministry of Education and Sports, I would not wait to be told by others, I would not even accept the appointment, neither would President Museveni appoint me, for I do not have to be in government,”

Right from her appointment as minister of education in 2016, First Lady has faced a barrage of criticism and at times outright dismissal by some elite that she is not up to the task yet the education ministry has been one of the best performing sectors in Uganda. In her true modus oparandi, she has largely kept quiet and left her work to do the talking. Before highlighting some of the achievements in her docket, let me first correct the impression that she is responsible for closing and opening schools.

When covid19 pandemic broke out almost two years ago, President Museveni created a covid19 National Task Force of largely scientists and policy makers to track the behaviour of the virus and advise government on the next course of action. Hon Janet Museveni is not a member of this National Taskforce and like other ministers, she receives guidelines from the president informed by the taskforce on what her ministry can do. Therefore, she has never closed schools or refused to open them as alleged by her detractors.

Coming back to the gist of my discussion, prior to coming to education ministry, Hon Janet had served as Minister for Karamoja Affairs in Cabinet from 27 May 2011 until 6 June 2016. Remember she was initially not on the cabinet list until Hon Tom Butime refused to take on the Karamoja docket. She went on to perform well in the region and change the old perception that “We cannot wait for Karamajong to develop” coined yesteryear. Ironically the past governments had put this unfortunate discriminatory and derogatory label into practice.

Karamoja region is now an attractive region bustling with lucrative mineral prospecting and mining. The region has potential for economic minerals such as gold, copper, iron ore, Rare Earth Elements, gemstones and Marble. Hon Janet transformed the region from the forgotten corner of Uganda to the most recognisable one right now. Roads have been built, cattle rustling brought under control and attracting big businesses prominent among them being the multimillion dollar Hotel Africana Moroto of late BMK. It’s a vote of confidence in the region by the business community.

The education sector has seen tremendous growth in the last five years. Under Uganda Inter-Government Fiscal Transfer Programme and Uganda Secondary Education Expansion Project, many schools have been built at sub county levels which has enabled more Ugandans to enrol. Registration of candidates for PLE increased by 12% from 621,401 to 695,804.

Among these candidates, 72% have been UPE candidates and the last five years alone have seen 3,276,151 pupils complete P.7. The number of girls finishing primary had surpassed boys by 2019 PLE exams, 359,764 compared to 336,040 respectively.

Number of students finishing senior 4 has increased from 312,833 in 2015 to 337,713 in 2019. The last five years have seen 1,607,031 learners complete Uganda Certificate of Education. The general performance has improved from 90.3% in 2015 to 92.2% in 2019. The ministry has promoted over 1200 teachers that upgraded from diploma to degree and recruited additional 8300 teachers for secondary schools. It’s no wonder that adult literacy rate stands at 76%.

The ministry has rolled out a new and revised lower secondary curriculum that has reduced subjects from 44 to 21. Continuous assessment from senior 1 to senior 4 has been prioritized so as to discourage cram work and make learning impactful. A curriculum on oil and gas was introduced and accredited internationally, meaning Ugandans will be able to work all over the world after qualifying locally.

The private sector has been encouraged to engage with education sector in developing and designing the learner’s guide. This has led to having a curriculum based on competence so that students acquire practical skills needed in the work place.

Science has been emphasized by government, 75% of the 4,000 students on government sponsorship are doing science courses. A student loan scheme has been introduced to enable them complete their studies and pay as they work. So far over 10,000 students have benefited from this loan scheme that aims at achieving equitable access to higher education.

Uganda established The Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak – RIF) that supports researchers and innovators whose ideas are aligned with national development priorities. Government has allocated resources to the Ministry of Science and Innovations so as to commercialize the innovations coming out of these funded projects and enable researchers make money out of their works. 

In sports, education ministry has surpassed national expectations. In 2019/20 financial year, government allocated Shs25.6bn to National Council of Sports to support the national team and other sports federations. The impact was instant as Uganda cranes broke a 38 year old jinx and qualified for Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon 2019. A year earlier in 2018, Uganda participated in the 21st commonwealth games in Australia and won 3 gold (Stella Chesang 10,000m women, Joshua Cheptegei 5,000m and 10,000m men), 1 silver (Munyo Mutai marathon) and 2 bronze (Mercyline Chelangat 10, 0000 women and Juma Miiro boxing).

The she cranes are now an international team top reckon with after being crowned Africa champions in 2017 and 2018, and emerging winners at World University Netball in 2018. The team is ranked 6th globally. Basketball has been rising steadily as well, the women’s team “Gazelles” and the men’s “Silver Bucks” participated in Africa Basketball championships for the first time ever in 2016. The silver Bucks were in Rwanda recently and lost in the quarter final to Cape Verde, a first ever appearance at that stage in a major tournament. Uganda is now represented in the elite National Basket Association (NBA) in United States by Ishmail Wainwright of Toronto Raptors.

Uganda is constructing a National High Altitude Training Centre in Kapchorwa to consolidate these golden performances by Ugandan athletes. The recently ended Tokyo Olympics further emphasized the need for this facility as Uganda bagged more medals. Joshua Cheptegei won gold in the men's 5,000m final and silver in the men's 10,000m. Peruth Chemutai won gold in the women's 10,000m final, while Jacob Kiplimo took bronze in the men's 10,000m finals.

All these sports success stories are no accident, the first lady has lobbied hard until the budget for National Council of sports was increased from Shs3.4bn in 2016 to Shs25bn in 2018. This has enabled funding of Uganda’s sports federations that include FUFA, UAF, UBF, FUBA and others. Therefore, the sports sub-sector has gained tremendously from Hon Janet’s tenure at education ministry.

Ugandan sports men and women have since 2016 to date won 300 medals in various disciplines. With 92 of the 300 medals being gold, it’s not too much to refer to Hon Janet Kataha Museveni as “THE GOLDEN MINISTER”.