Armed conflicts have long-lasting negative impacts on individual human capital, including educational attainment. The Acholi region endured nearly eighteen years of insurgency under the Lord’s Resistance Army, which greatly affected the delivery of quality education.
Acholi region has inequitable access to education compared to the rest of the country. In geographical terms, the 2020 UNICEF Annual Report states that the lowest secondary net enrolment in Uganda is in Acholi region at 7 per cent, compared to Kampala, the highest at 54 per cent.
It is against this background that a team from the Education Policy Review Commission led by Hon. Col. (Rtd.) Amanya Mushega, the Chair to the Commission visited Acholi region at the end of September, 2023. The Commission consulted key education stakeholders from the districts of Agago, Amuru, Gulu, Kitgum, Nwoya, Lamwo, Pader and Omoro District.
The Commission engaged district leadership, administrative and education officers to solicit their views and seek policy proposals for education in Acholi and Uganda. In addition, the Commission toured several learning facilities and engaged learners, teachers, managers of schools and parents. At the end of the tour, the Commission convened a joint stakeholder meeting for the region in Gulu Municipality which was open to the public.
The people of Acholi raised policy proposals for improving education in the region. Some of the policy recommendations are:
1. Revamp learning and standards of schools: The region reports poor academic performance due limited resources such as learning materials, infrastructure, low number of teachers, and low quality of teachers, limited access to learning - especially for secondary education and tertiary institutions, no access to ICT, lack of school supervision to enforce standards, among others.
2. Institute an affirmative education policy for Acholi to boost learning, performance, and absorption in the labor market. This includes establishing bursaries for the region. This will help the region improve its quality of education and outcomes.
3. Promote technical and vocational training in order to produce skilled learners. Establish multiple technical institutions in the region, and a technical university to cater for academic growth.
4. Compel parents to take and maintain children of school going age in school. A behavior change program should be designed to show parents the benefits of keeping children in school.
5. Promote sports by compelling all schools to participate in annual games. Penalize non participation, so that school owners can prioritize sports alongside academics. Acholi region has great potential to excel in sports.
Other issues raised were generic to nationwide concerns; ranging from curriculum revision, financial support and offering administrative leave to teachers to allow them upgrade, increased budget support to schools, the role of parents in providing food and financially supporting the learning of children, payment disparities between teachers, crowded classrooms, promotion and salary ceilings for teachers even after upgrading to a university degree or even master’s degree, uncoordinated transfers or deployment of teachers between the Education Service Commission and the District, to, limited powers of District Education Officers in curtailing substandard learning institutions, among others.
In conclusion, the Education Policy Review Commission will continue holding public hearings, consultations and dialogue with key stakeholders across the country. So far, the Commission has consulted people of Busoga, West Nile, Karamoja and Acholi region to gathers views and proposals about Uganda’s education and sports sector. The findings will be used to inform the formulation of a macro policy framework for human capital development in the country.