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Donor fury as pupils learn under trees


IRATE international donors have threatened to withdraw funding for Uganda's programme to achieve universal primary education, which only a year ago was being held up as a model for poor countries.

Donors - 10 countries including Britain, plus the EU and the World Bank - say the strain on the system caused by a massive expansion of places has been exacerbated by Ugandan mismanagement. Some children are barely benefiting from school, they say.

The dash for growth has tripled primary enrolment in three years. But the Ugandan government has failed to meet targets agreed with donors for new classrooms, textbooks and recruiting teachers to cater for the extra pupils.

Donors want schools to focus on English, maths and science, and have accused the Kampala government of trying to add six subjects to the primary curriculum while the quality of education is plummeting. They fear drop-outs will soar as parents realise their children are not learning anything.

British aidadviser Michael Ward said the expanded curriculum "will increase the burden on teachers and the burden of examinations, yet the quality of primary education is in crisis".

Donors are annoyed that hundreds of thousands of children are still learning under trees, when funds have been released to build classrooms. They have pledged $570 million (pound;396m) to support Uganda's education plans but textbooks and other learning materials procured last June have still not been delivered to schools.

The government had been expected to provide all primaries with water and sanitation but 60 per cent of schools still have no permanent water facilities.

By the end of the project in 2003, the government was supposed to reduce the pupil-textbook ratio from 7:1 to 1:1 and the teacher:pupil ratio to 1:55.

But the textbook:pupil ratio has fallen only slightly to 6:1. While drop-outs have helped push the teacher:pupil ratio down from 1:110 to 1:63, the classroom-pupil ratio is 1:121.

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