Scholarships and Fellowships for African Researchers in 2014

There are a number of scholarship and fellowship opportunities for African students and researchers with deadlines in early 2014. I’m compiling a list below (descriptions from respective websites); please feel free to send along others.

EASST 2014 Visiting Scholar Fellowship
What: “The EASST Visiting Scholar Fellowship seeks to equip East African social scientists with the skills needed to carry out rigorous evaluations of economic development programs. Researchers will be based at the University of California Berkeley during either the Fall or Spring semester, and will receive a living stipend, round-trip economy class air travel to Berkeley, CA, and the opportunity to receive a $8,000 research grant to promote impact evaluation at their home institution in East Africa. While at Berkeley, fellows will be able to audit courses, present research, attend seminars, develop curricula and design collaborative research projects.”

Deadline: March 16, 2014
Application portal here.

Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders
What: “The Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the new flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). President Obama launched YALI in 2010 to support young African leaders as they spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa. The Washington Fellowship, which begins in 2014, will bring 500 young leaders to the United States each year for academic coursework and leadership training and will create unique opportunities in Africa for Fellows to put new skills to practical use in leading organizations, communities, and countries.”

Deadline: January 27, 2014
Application website here.

Harvard South Africa Fellowship Program
What: “The Harvard South Africa Fellowship Program (HSAFP) is intended for South Africans who in the past were educationally disadvantaged by law and resource allocation under apartheid. In 1979 Harvard University began awarding these fellowships for a year of study in one or more of its faculties or schools. Harvard funds these fellowships from its own resources. Over the years more than one hundred and forty fellowships have been awarded to South Africans.”

Deadline: March/April 2014 (exact date TBD)
Application website here (still undergoing updates for 2014).

APSA Africa Workshop 2014
What: “The American Political Science Association (APSA) and the Higher Institute of Public Administration (ISAP) are pleased to announce a call for applications from individuals who would like to participate in a workshop on ‘Distributive goods and distributive politics’ in Maputo, Mozambique. The two-week workshop will be held from June 30th to July 11th 2014 at the Higher Institute of Public Administration in Maputo, Mozambique. The organizers, with a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will cover all the costs of participation (including travel, lodging, meals, and materials) for up to 26 qualified applicants. This year’s workshop will be conducted in English.

The Africa Workshops program at the American Political Science Association (APSA) is an ongoing effort to expand the capacity of political science research and teaching in east and west Sub-Saharan Africa. With support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, APSA is undertaking a multi-year program to organize a series of political science workshops throughout Africa and promote the profession of political science across the region. Each year, the program brings brings together approximately 30 scholars from across Africa and the United States for a 2-3 week seminar or short-course that focuses on a substantive theme of interest to political scientists. Driven by a unique syllabus featuring classic and cutting-edge research, each workshop program includes lectures, discussions, topical presentations and debates, guest speakers, peer review sessions, professional development seminars, and local field trips. Participants are required to arrive with and present their own current research, which they will then continue to refine for publication. Through these workshops, participants become an active part of the growing international political science community with increased access to supportive scholarly networks.”

Deadline: March 14, 2014
Online application form here.

MSc in African Studies, University of Oxford
What: “The MSc in African Studies is a three-term, nine-month course designed both as a stand-alone interdisciplinary introduction to current debates about Africa, and as a preparation for doctoral research on Africa. This advanced degree programme provides an excellent foundation for those who wish to expand their knowledge of African Studies, prior to working for NGOs, the civil service, international organizations, and the media, or in other professional capacities.”

“The African Studies Centre is offering full scholarships for the MSc in African Studies for the 2014-2015 academic year.”

Deadlines: January 24, 2014, and March 14, 2014
Admissions website here, scholarships website here.

African Women Public Service Fellows
What: “Wagner announces a call for applications for the African Women Public Service Fellowship, a fellowship program made possible by a donation from the Oprah Winfrey Foundation, which expands the opportunity for African women to prepare for public service in their home countries. As fellows at NYU Wagner, African women study in one of two graduate programs: the two-year Master of Public Administration or the one-year Executive MPA: Concentration on International Public Service Organizations. The awards for either program will support tuition, housing, travel to and from the United States and a small stipend to cover books and miscellaneous expenses. Applicants commit to return to their respective home countries at the conclusion of the program with the goal of assuming a leadership position on the continent where they can meaningfully contribute to the challenges currently confronting Africa.”

Deadline: varies, see application timetable.
Application website here.

Carnegie African Diaspora Fellows Program
What: “The Carnegie African Diaspora Fellows Program (ADF) is a scholar exchange program, offered by IIE in partnership with Quinnipiac University (QU) and funded by a two-year grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY). ADF will support 100 short-term faculty exchange fellowships for African-born academics. The program exemplifies CCNY’s enduring commitment to higher education in Africa. IIE will manage and administer the program, including applications, project requests and fellowships. QU will provide strategic direction through Dr. Paul Tiyambe Zeleza and an Advisory Council he will chair.”

Deadline: TBD
Learn how to apply.

Quantitative Methods Training at U-M African Social Research Initiative
What: “The African Social Research Initiative (ASRI) at the University of Michigan seeks applications for up to four visiting scholars to attend courses in social science research methods and analysis at the University of Michigan during the months of June-August 2014. The program is open to academic researchers who are enrolled in or have completed PhD programs in the social sciences and who are from, or reside in, one or more of the following countries: GhanaKenyaLiberiaSouth Africa, and Uganda.
During their time in Ann Arbor, visiting scholars will attend courses offered by two internationally renowned summer training programs at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research (ISR). Applicants who are invited to attend the summer programs may select several options from amongst the four- or eight-week sessions offered.”

Deadline: February 14, 2014
Application details here.

Update: Rachel Strohm has a similar post, Fellowships for African Students.

Sunday round-up

A few links for your Sunday:

 

Winners and losers in Uganda’s 2013-2014 Budget

BTTB 2013-214

Winners (increased % of budget): Works and Transport, Energy, Public Administration

Losers (decreased total spending): Tourism, Trade and Industry, ICT, Social Development (what is that?), Education

Background to the Budget 2013-2014 available here.

Looks like we are focusing on physical capital at the expense of human capital. Will it pay off?

Explaining health behavior

Pascaline Dupas has an excellent paper in the Annual Review of Economics: Health Behavior in Developing Countries. It’s well worth reading. Conclusion below:

Good health is both an input into one’s ability to generate income and an end in itself. As such, it is not surprising that a relatively vast literature is devoted to understanding the determinants of health behaviors. This literature has recently expanded to the study of health behaviors in low-income settings, for which good data are becoming increasingly available. This review is too short to be exhaustive, but it tries to present the most compelling evidence to date on this issue. The important thing to take away from this review is that when it comes to health behavior in developing countries, there are a substantial number of deviations from the neoclassical model. First of all, people seem to lack basic information, and sometimes have limited ability to process information, because of low education levels. Second, there are market imperfections and frictions, especially credit constraints, affecting people’s ability to invest in health. Finally, there seem to be some deviations from the rational model, with, as has been widely shown in developed countries, a nontrivial share of people exhibiting time-inconsistent preferences as well as myopia.
Overall, this suggests an important role for public policy when it comes to health. Above we identify four important demand-side policy tools: information, mandates, price subsidies, and financial incentives. All appear to have the potential to increase the sustained adoption of preventive behavior. But the success of these demand-side strategies is contingent on the supply side being adequate: on health services and products being available, with delivery and/or enforcement institutions that are effective. The issue of how to improve service delivery in health is outside the scope of this review, but it has been the focus of a number of recent and ongoing studies that will soon need a review of their own.

Gender and Development

A topic worth exploring. From the 2012 World Development Report, Gender Equality and Development:

The lives of girls and women have changed dramatically over the past quarter century. Today, more girls and women are literate than ever before, and in a third of developing countries, there are more girls in school than boys. Women now make up over 40 percent of the global labor force. Moreover, women live longer than men in all regions of the world. The pace of change has been astonishing—indeed, in many developing countries, they have been faster than the equivalent changes in developed countries: What took the United States 40 years to achieve in increasing girls’ school enrollment has taken Morocco just a decade.

In some areas, however, progress toward gender equality has been limited—even in developed countries. Girls and women who are poor, live in remote areas, are disabled, or belong to minority groups continue to lag behind. Too many girls and women are still dying in childhood and in the reproductive ages. Women still fall behind in earnings and productivity, and in the strength of their voices in society. In some areas, such as education, there is now a gender gap to the disadvantage of men and boys.

The main message of this year’s World Development Report: Gender Equality and Development is that these patterns of progress and persistence in gender equality matter, both for development outcomes and policy making.

Analyzing Africa: The Audacity of Despair

A new, defiant image

Published online at The Independent, Rwanda Edition, December 17, 2011

In 2000, the cover of The Economist pictured a boy wielding an AK47 inside the outline of the African continent, surrounded by black. “The hopeless continent,” the cover ominously read. At the time a combination of factors led the magazine and a whole host of bystanders to throw up their hands in despair, and mentally close the door to hope for the future of “Africa.” A decade later, The Economist, whose cover this week reads, “Africa rising” and many others, are waking up, wide-eyed, to realize the tremendous growth and progress that has been taking place on the continent all along. Progress has not been even, or without crushing reversals along the way. But given the history of development across the globe, it is entirely unclear why we should have anticipated linear progress, or lament its absence. Political, social, and economic development will carry on with or without handwringing at one extreme, or ululations at the other.

There have been at least two common mistakes in assessing progress (or the lack thereof) in “Africa,” which together have made for some rather wrongheaded analyses. First, there is a danger in conflating levels of development with development itself. It is obvious to all that levels of per capita income, education, and mortality, for example are lower on average in Africa than anywhere else. The issue of levels, however, is entirely different from change over time. Contrary to popular belief, improvement in both human and economic development was occurring in Africa before the dawn of the new millennium, just not everywhere. This leads me to the second analytic pitfall – the “Africa is a country” problem.

It is obvious to all that Africa is not a country but a continent, but analysis nonetheless often treats Africa as if it were one political, economic, or social unit. It is not. There is tremendous variation across the continent in both levels of development and rates of improvement over time. A failure to acknowledge the divergent paths countries have taken leads to the kind of essentialisation one tends to regret.

It is all too easy to essentialize. The mind recalls the most extreme cases, and remembers those that support prior beliefs. So in 2000, near the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, with flooding, drought, the Second Congo War, political crisis in Sierra Leone and a waffling UN Security Council, it was easy to create an image of Africa that was tearing itself to pieces. “Africa was weak before the Europeans touched its coasts. Nature is not kind to it,” wrote The Economist. “This may be the birthplace of mankind, but it is hardly surprising that humans sought other continents to live in.” Ouch.

As noted, it is true that levels of development, that is, income per capita, literacy, infant mortality, and many other measures of development, are comparatively far lower in sub-Saharan Africa, but all of this ignores the changes that have been taking place. In the 1990s, for instance, despite much pessimism, a number of countries held multi-party elections, a wave that started with Benin in 1991. While these countries would not become flourishing liberal democracies overnight, the 1990s would mark the beginning of the end of dictatorship as we know it.

There was also an effort to improve access to education, and the percentage of children completing primary school grew in a number of countries, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Malawi, Togo, and Uganda, albeit occasionally starting at very low levels. Gains in education were not achieved everywhere, and schooling declined in some countries, but this fact only further demonstrates the variation in performance across African countries.

The best news is that although improvement in education varied, improvements in health over the past several decades have been nearly universal. Since 1960, child mortality has fallen in every single African country for which there is data, with the possible exception of Somalia. Even in a country like the Central African Republic (CAR), notorious for its poor governance, under-5 mortality fell by half over the past fifty years, from 300 to just over 150 deaths per 1000 births. In 1960, just over one in three children born in CAR would not live to see their fifth birthday; today six out of seven will survive childhood. Moreover, in spite of the devastating HIV/AIDS pandemic, which has claimed millions of lives, the hardest hit African countries are rebounding, and child and maternal mortality rates are again declining in countries like Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

Economically, the performance of African countries has been diverse for decades, with some countries consistently growing and others wallowing in economic misery. A number of African countries experienced periods of negative economic growth throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and into the 1990s, which, along with population growth throughout, meant that several had the same or even lower levels of per capita income in the 1990s than they had at independence.

Still, many countries began to see positive economic growth in the 1990s or earlier, including countries as diverse as Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo (Brazzaville), Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Uganda, and Zambia. Some of these economies are reliant on commodities such as oil and minerals, but service and other sectors comprise an increasing share of the economy in many countries, and regional trade has grown as well.

Average levels of development give Africa a bad name, but initial conditions were different from most of the rest of the world, and rates of improvement have often equaled or exceeded those in the developed world. As interest in Africa is piqued by double-digit economic growth figures and opportunities for investment, we will continue to see discussion of a part of the world most people inadvertently essentialize. Fortunately, I think the audacity of despair that has pervaded western thinking on Africa has left little in its wake other than egg on some faces. The audacity of hope has now come to the fore.

Beyond the State: Letters from Gulu

Apologies for the extremely sparse posting of late. I have just returned from a trip to Central America, including Belize, Honduras, and Mexico, which I’ll post more about soon. In the meantime, I’d like to share the first edition of a weekly column I began writing for the Independent (Rwanda edition) three weeks ago. I’ll be posting these weekly after they are published online. I look forward to your comments and feedback.

Beyond the state: letters from Gulu

Published online November 23, 2011

Health care, education, basic infrastructure, and security are some of the services the modern state seeks to provide. The success of states in delivering these goods to their far-flung populations, especially in the midst of conflict or under severe resource constraints, is quite variable. In recent years, for example, Rwanda has been lauded for implementing a health insurance scheme that covers all Rwandans and offers them a range of health services, while the reach of the state in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo or South Sudan is much more limited. While there are important lessons to be learned from the success of the Rwandan state, which has proven itself unusually efficacious in a number of sectors, it is all too easy to overlook the ways in which information and innovation flow alongside the state, and often in spite of state failures. Tremendous opportunity lies beyond the state.

I recently unearthed letters given to me in mid-2005 by a group of primary school students in Gulu, northern Uganda’s largest city, illustrating this point. At the time, to cross Karuma Falls, where the Nile cuts the land like a scythe, was to enter a world far removed from political drama unfolding in Kampala. While Ugandan President Museveni was jostling for the removal of term limits in the capital, the terror of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda was still unfolding, though nearing its final days. The river dividing north from south might as well have been an ocean.

The reach and strength of the state was limited. Getting to Gulu from the capital carried its risks – tarmac fell away at the edges of the road much of the way from Kampala to Karuma, rebels lingered somewhere north of the Nile, and reaching the environs beyond Gulu was an even greater challenge. The state could not guarantee security, much less provide quality public services. Then Prime Minister, Apolo Nsibambi, in charge of public sector management, did not even set foot in the north until the mid 2000s, more than five years into his term.

When I first received the letters, I was struck by the violent images many of the children in Gulu could portray with a couple of pens and a piece of paper. Looking back, however, more striking than these images are what these youngsters wrote. “Too many children one after the other”, wrote a young boy named Geoffrey. “If a woman is not allowed to rest between children, her reproductive system can be harmfully affected, and her children will not be properly cared for”. Another, Solomon, carefully printed Ghanaian Nobel laureate Raphael Armattoe’s poem, “The Lonely Soul”, word for word. Others wrote about the effect of AIDS on their community, and a young boy named Kenneth drew a picture of “Cent 50”, the American rapper.

These letters illustrate not the failure of the Ugandan state in the north, which had evidently been unwilling or unable to stop the marauding LRA for nearly twenty years, but rather the porous nature of society, and the tremendous opportunities that lie outside the state. These students demonstrate not the dismal quality of Uganda’s educational system in an insecure region, but rather their ability to utilize the resources at their young fingertips. At ages seven to ten, they shared information about child spacing, antenatal care, infertility, the spread of infectious disease, poetry, and American pop culture. Through what channels did they initially access this information? Through school and formal state structures? Possibly, though these are likely to be only part of the story. How can we use these channels, whatever they may be, to further promote innovation and the spread of information?

Our approaches to improving public health and education have often focused on things we can touch and see – a health center, a new classroom, an operating table, a chalkboard – but ignored the social networks and flow of information that do not respect administrative boundaries and are not tied to specific politicians and policies. This bias is in part due to the fact that physical infrastructure is highly visible, and as such, plays an important role in politics. It is much harder to see the networks of common knowledge than it is to see the building of walls. It is easy to undervalue and difficult to use that which we cannot see, at least politically. We tend to privilege infrastructure over information.

How do we take advantage of the vibrant flow of information today? How can we better understand the channels through which it flows – through communities, families, churches, mosques, media, and even music? The state is not the only, or even primary, conduit of knowledge with the potential to improve health, for example. The formal structures of the state and public service provision often seem to fail us – absenteeism among civil servants, rampant corruption, poor policy implementation – but the social structures that connect society have the potential to fill in the gaps.

What is remarkable is not how far we have to go in ensuring a minimum standard of living, which can seem like a daunting journey, but how far we have come, even in the midst of conflict and severe resource constraints. The state can and should play an important and perhaps guiding role in providing public services, but we should also try to understand and take advantage of the opportunities to improve health, education, and other social services already at our fingertips.

Exporting Education

In 2004/5 over US $30 million came into Uganda from education services, the fourth highest external earner after remittances by Ugandan nationals, coffee, and fish exports, according to New Vision. Although this statistic is a bit outdated, it is clear that there is an enormous investment opportunity here. In 2006 non-Ugandans made up 13% of the student population enrolled in universities, and in total over 30,000 non-Ugandan students were enrolled at all levels of the education sector. See this report by the Uganda Export Promotion Board for an analysis of potential opportunities and challenges in this sector and others.

Although there is money to be made on this front, perhaps more important is the fact that the sector is as yet unprepared for the massive influx of students that are about to come through the ranks from primary school. There are over 7 million primary students in Uganda today — a full quarter of the population — and currently not enough teachers or classrooms to teach them when they reach secondary school. Over 450,000 sat for their primary exit examinations in 2006, but only half were able to continue to secondary school due to space and capacity constraints. And of course at some point one has to wonder what jobs will be available for these millions of students when they graduate in a few years time…

The Luckiest Girl?

Nicholas Kristof’s op-ed, “The Luckiest Girl,” was, on the morning of July 4th, the most popular emailed article in the New York Times. For some reason, this particular piece irked me when I read it this morning, and I have spent the day trying to understand exactly why. I think it is because in this piece, Uganda, the place I now consider my second home, morphs into just another “African country” and Beatrice into another “African girl,” as if using the word “African” somehow ought to convey some implicit understanding among the readers about what Africa or Africans are. I am, of course, glad that Beatrice received a good education, but dismayed at the notion or insinuation that the appropriate course of action for “Westerners” or those to want to “make a difference” is to launch a bunch of goats at poor farmers. Perhaps I am reading too much into Kristof’s piece, but I cannot help my instant recoil at yet another portrayal of a very specific place and context as just another generic piece of an amorphous puzzle called “Africa.”

Education in Uganda: The Cost of Collective Action Failure

It is hard to say whether there are more questions or more accusations flying around the country in the weeks since the fire that broke out at Budo Junior School, killing 20 young girls. No one wants to take responsibility and everyone has a different idea of whom to blame. The Ministry of Education points at the local government, local government at school administrators, school administrators at guards and matrons, and the president at all of the above and everyone else in between.

Blame for the Budo incident and the consensus that someone must pay for it has resulted in the prosecution and jailing of some Budo staff. Few, however, have questioned the role of parents and the general public in this and, more generally, the deterioration of the educational system as a whole. The assumption is that parents take actions they perceive to be in the best interest of their children. It may be argued that parents brought their children to board at Budo, for example, because they perceived this school to be the best attainable learning environment for their children.

Many were likely aware of the overcrowding but nevertheless trusted that their children would be in safe hands. A letter written by a parent a few months ago demonstrates this awareness. It was circulated around Ugandan media houses in early February and published in The Daily Monitor, complaining of “buildings being run down, pupils being fed poor and late meals…[and] tap water being available only during the day when parents visit school.” Thus, though concerned parents had evidently been making noise about poor conditions, it was not until disaster struck that all of those involved began to take concerted and expedient action to solve some of the most critical problems. But given the fact that this is not the first, second, or even tenth school fire to occur in the past several years, what reason is there to expect that action will be taken outside of Budo to improve conditions in schools?

A primary issue, not just in education but also in nearly all public service sectors, is the lack of collective action. It is easier for parents to take care of the immediate needs of their individual children – for example, bribing teachers to give their children special attention or extra lessons – than to work collectively to demand that services be improved for the good of all the children. Likewise, it is easier for those with clout to buy a Land Cruiser rather than to demand that roads be constructed for which one does not need a 4-wheel drive simply to navigate potholed city streets. And it is easier to send a family member to South Africa for treatment than to revamp Uganda’s ailing healthcare system. Yet opting to act individualistically in matters regarding public services can actually backfire – catastrophically in the short term or incrementally in the long term.

This is not in any way to suggest that parents are to blame for the deaths of their children. It is merely to show the level to which the collective action of all those concerned has failed with disastrous consequences. This collective includes not only parents, but the larger society that should have a vested interest in ensuring its children are safe, healthy and receiving quality education. It is not news to anyone that public services in Uganda such as education, roadwork and healthcare are in shambles. What is less clear, however, is why in so many cases the collective whole has allowed these systems to flounder and fail.

There is a danger that lies in a myopic investigation of the Budo fire and other incidents symptomatic of wider structural failure. Focusing on the prosecution of individuals and on the details surrounding the Budo fire is ultimately obstructing the larger picture – that the educational system in Uganda has degenerated quite literally into a powder keg threatening both children’s lives and opportunities. The endemic and monumental problems facing education in Uganda require both a vision and collective action.

The educational system is flush with cash when compared to other sectors, receiving around Shs 767 billion in 2007/8 – 16% of the total budget and significantly more than any other sector. Yet in lieu of a vision for what education should provide, the focus of policy appears to be increasing the percentage of children that can fit in a classroom and be passed along from one grade level to the next. Around 7 million children are estimated to be enrolled in Uganda’s primary schools, and this number is expected to increase in the next few years to meet the target of 95% primary enrolment, up from 91.2% currently. High rates of enrolment in P1, though a seeming positive achievement, may distract the public, government and donors from serious structural and substantive issues facing primary education. Aside from the oft quoted statistics on low rates of primary school completion – for example that only 22% of students who began P1 in 1997 reached P6 by 2002 – there are quality and safety standards which are often breached in the few cases where such standards exist at all. Literacy rates have remained stagnant for the past few years, and in 2003 only 20% of P6 students were achieving minimum literacy or numeracy rates.

In addition to quality concerns, a commercialisation of education has resulted in an attempt by schools to pack as many students as possible within their walls, regardless of their capacity to manage and teach these children. Mr James Collins Dombo, Under Secretary of the Public Service Commission and parent of a Budo Junior pupil expressed concern regarding such commercialisation, explaining the perception of some school staff that “the bigger the numbers [of pupils] the more you earn.” And indeed, when asked about the condition of Budo Junior School, one teacher interviewed by The Independent mentioned the first “positive development” at Budo to be the ever increasing number of pupils.

Quality of content is also an issue. A premium is placed on memorising information from textbooks and churning out high scores on tests, without a critical examination of what this crammed information will provide. Since passing these tests is a prerequisite for continued study, however, parents will pay a high price to ensure their children are prepared to perform well by this measure, even if it is at the expense of ensuring quality in other areas, such as the conditions in which these children must live and study. Parents at Budo Junior, for example, pay approximately Shs 400,000 per term per child, and there are over 1300 students in attendance. Nevertheless, there had been no electricity in the school for several days leading up to the fire, children were sleeping in triple-decker beds, and Budo teachers had recently gone on strike after failing to receive their pay cheques. If Budo, one of the “best” primary schools in the country is facing such blatant administrative, financial or managerial problems, what must be the condition of primary schools elsewhere in Uganda?

Serious challenges thus face the primary education system in terms of vision and capacity. But before it has even resolved these critical issues, the government is again off and running with a new campaign, this time for Universal Secondary Education (USE). Though an admirable idea, it is hard to see how USE will not further distract those involved in the educational system from the many problems that already exist. The Ministry of Education, local governments, and schools themselves have repeatedly demonstrated their inability to effectively manage the burgeoning population of primary students – how will they possibly manage a growing population of secondary students as well?

Organisation and management within the sector will have to be addressed. In fact, the disorder within the educational system as a whole is largely responsible for the circular finger pointing that took place at Budo after the fire. Possibly because of the existence of so many institutions and people charged with various responsibilities within the educational sector, each assumes that a lapse in their contribution will not make a meaningful difference. It is perhaps when everyone – central government, local government, school administrators, school staff, parents, etc – is depending on someone else to run the show that the whole system falls to pieces.

For example, on his visit to Budo following the fire, President Museveni called upon the Ministry of Education and minister herself to carry out quality control measures saying, “You [Ms Bitamazire] are the quality controller and you should set the standards.” Yet at a press briefing two weeks ago Ms Bitamazire deflected responsibility, instead stating that as a result of decentralisation in 1997, the local governments and not the Ministry of Education had a “100% mandate to run primary schools.” Ministry officials admitted that there had been a weakening of inspection as a result of decentralisation and rather audaciously requested “stakeholders” help to make sure they enforce the law.

There was no specific mention of who these stakeholders are, but in any case, the principle stakeholders should be the Ugandan people and parents in particular. Granted, the ministry officials should not require stakeholders to breathe down their necks in order to ensure that the laws protecting children are enforced. Nevertheless, this is the state of affairs with which the country is faced.

The minister of education recently tried to assuage concerns regarding school safety by announcing a new education bill creating a “Directorate of Inspectorate,” which would be allocated a starting sum of Shs 2.5 billion. But the creation of even more oversight bodies will not solve the fundamental problems that exist. It may even further dilute the responsibilities that already existing institutions and officials have, creating even more opportunities for free riding within the educational sector. It will take not more institutions working separately, but collective action that will improve education in Uganda. One must hope that the Budo tragedy will not end with the punishment of a few underpaid school staff, but rather will lead to a realisation that acting individualistically within the current system is in the best interest of neither the children nor the society, both of whom have already paid too high a price for systemic failure in education.