Despite Uganda’s efforts to enhance access to secondary education through the universal secondary education (USE) programme, access to secondary education remains a challenge—especially for poor students and girls according to research by the Economic Policy Research Centre.
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Why Uganda should start PPPs with secondary schools to increase education access 

Despite Uganda’s efforts to enhance access to secondary education through the universal secondary education (USE) programme, access to secondary education remains a challenge—especially for poor students and girls according to research by the Economic Policy Research Centre.

EPRC research also finds that the quality of education in USE schools remains low and, in addition, the secondary school system is characterized by low transition and completion rates.

“Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) offer an opportunity to close the gaps in access to education as well as address quality concerns. EPRC summarized the findings of a study that evaluated the Promotion of Equality in African Schools (PEAS)’s network schools—a PPP arrangement—under the Uganda USE programme,” said Mildred Barungi and Francis Mwesigye, both Research Fellows at the Economic Policy Research Centre, who carried out the research.

The results indicate that the PEAS intervention enhanced access to education for poor students and those from remote and hard to reach areas.

In addition, students in PEAS schools, who hitherto had poor PLE grades, performed as well as those in private and government schools in the assessment exams suggesting that PEAS intervention improved education quality.

The research adds that the main pathways for quality improvement were school inspection, the functionality of parents-teachers associations, the effectiveness of child protection policies, and teacher motivation through timely pay and in-service training, among others.

“These findings have key policy implications. First, carefully selected PPPs are key to enhancing education access and quality. Second, school inspections enhance teacher performance and hence education quality.

“Third, teacher motivation through timely payments and training enhance their productivity. Finally, availability of child protection policies at schools as well as actual enforcement are critical for enhancing student concentration and performance,” added Barungi.

The research notes that the need to pay school fees remains a challenge for many secondary students despite the existence of the Universal Secondary Education (USE) programme in Uganda and its associated capitation grants.

“Due to the variety of income sources for secondary schools, the average expenditures between public and other schools differ markedly. This brief examines the drivers of secondary school expenditures and whether private schools delivering USE services offer an opportunity to reduce the overall cost of secondary education in Uganda.

“The brief is based on the analysis of costs of secondary education undertaken as part of the 3-year impact evaluation of the Promoting Equality in African Schools (PEAS) programme in Uganda—implemented under a Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) arrangement.

“We find that government schools on average have a total expenditure of UGX 548 million per year and this is about 60 per cent more than what is spent on average in non-government schools.

“The large differences in expenditures between public and other schools is primarily attributed to higher teacher salaries in government schools as well as the provision to teachers of several non-salary benefits like meals and rent for accommodation —paid from the school dues.

“ As such, the estimated per student recurrent expenditure is highest for government schools at UGX 1.4 million compared to UGX 1 million and UGX 736,000 for PEAS and private schools respectively.

“As such, strategic partnerships between Government and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have the potential to significantly reduce the cost to households of sending their children to school,” said Mwesigye.

Efforts by many countries to provide equitable and affordable access to quality education have increased due to the political pressure at home and domestication of global initiatives such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

BY PAUL TENTENA