Massive bid to increase schooling;Briefing;International

2nd July 1999 at 01:00

Plans are under way to spend more than US $700million (pound;446m) on primary and secondary education improvement by 2003.

The strategic education investment plan is intended to boost access to education by building new schools and rehabilitating dilapidated classrooms. Core curriculum textbooks in science, mathematics, English and Kiswahili will be supplied free.

The head of the programme's evaluation and monitoring unit, Albert Byamugisha, says the target is to enrol more than 90 per cent of the country's children of primary school age. "More than 25,000 classrooms will have to be built," he said.

A double-shift primary teaching system - one group in the morning, another in the afternoon - will be applied as a temporary measure in densely populated areas. This strategy, education officials say, will ensure that no children are left out.

The government also plans to establish 850 community polytechnics in the next two years, to provide multi-skill training for primary school-leavers. Communities will be mobilised to create community polytechnics in each location. About 100,000 trainees are expected to benefit from the scheme by the year 2003.

Substantial resources will be used to improve education in northern Uganda among Karamoja's nomadic communities. Like other pastoral communities in East Africa, such as the Masai, they are unconvinced of the value of school. Girls are often married early, and boys look after livestock.

To encourage attendance, the government intends to integrate schools in Karamoja with local economic activities. Pupils will look after livestock in the morning and attend school in the afternoon. Similar schools have raised enrolment among the Samburu pastoral communities in Kenya.

Since schools have small classes "two or more classes will be located in one classroom and taught by one teacher", says Mr Byamugisha.

Boarding schools for girls in nomadic districts will be built, with fees waived. Girls who become pregnant before they complete primary school (14 years old or more) will be encouraged to continue with education.

The entire project will depend heavily on external donors, who are expected to contribute about US$ 560 million (pound;357m), accounting for 80 per cent of the programme. So far UNICEF has commended the plan as one that would raise enrolment at primary level in Uganda from 3.5 million to 5.5 million.

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