United States is working with Microsoft to improve education management with
computer technology. The U.S. Agency for
International Development, USAID, will provide $2 million to purchase
equipment for the project. Microsoft will design software that will help gather
data in the education ministry. The
alliance is expected to provide educators and students with online resources. Voice of America English to Africa Service's Machrine
Birungi in Kampala reports that Uganda introduced free primary education for
all children 10 years ago, opening doors for millions who would have been too
poor to go to school.
Under the Universal Primary Education program, the number of children between
six and 15-years-old tripled over the past decade.
One of the remaining problems is the lack of a strong system of education
management. Teachers and administrators need to share vital information, such
as changes in school courses and programs, especially in rural areas.
no access to Information and Communication Technologies, known as ICT, it has
become harder for teachers to stay aware of decisions made by the education
Ogwal is a teacher at a school in Bugiri District in southeastern Uganda. He
says out of the 21 teachers that were assigned to the school, only six reported
for duty. The others declined the offer because of the severe shortage of
adequate facilities like teaching supplies and living quarters For teachers.
were here but some of them have refused to come," said Ogwal. "Some only report and look at
the situation and they don't come back. Living standards here are difficult. For example, water is the biggest
problem here. We get water almost six kilometers away from here."
Twenty-seven schools may
have to close because of the shortage of teachers in Bugiri District.
Ogwal says the few teachers who do stay to
work find themselves in overcrowded classrooms without enough information or
"There is big workload among teachers because you
will find a teacher teaching about three or four subjects in more than two
classes. In fact, a teacher cannot find sufficient material because of the
lack of reliable data management systems in schools also makes it harder to
record, collect and access important information. Some teachers spend days
traveling to the headquarters to check whether or not their names are on the
payroll. Once teachers are hired, it takes years for them to get onto the
government payroll because of red tape.
One example happened to Andrew Okumu. He was working as a teacher at Budalla
primary school and was later transferred to Mutumba primary school. But because
of the poor flow of information, the transfer was not on the books at Mutumba,
making it difficult for him to start earning a salary.
He explains the dilemmas that
have not been given an assignment because I have not met with my boss," said Okumu. "My boss
went to the district to rectify the situation of the teachers who are not
receiving their salaries. I had asked the headmaster of Budalla not to delete me because the staff ceiling at
Mutumba is almost full, meaning that I have no way to access the payroll of
Mutumba primary school."
for Education Namirembe Bitamazire says a better system of information
technology – and teaching education professionals how to use it - will
help them deliver better education for students from primary school to
"We need information," said Namirembe Bitamazire. "We need data to be able to make correct
decisions especially decisions on policy, planning budgeting and the rest. But
where you don't have correct data it is always difficult to arrive at correct
decisions. Right now we have expanded our school system. And we need to know as
regularly as possible what numbers we are sponsoring in each school, district
The mission director for
USAID in Uganda, David Eckerson, says the agreement between USAID and Microsoft
is a milestone that will help the government of Uganda improve its educational
"What we want to see is an
education management information system that is fully operational at the
district level," said David Eckerson. "So all districts will be running information management systems
where they will have access to information to make decisions to improve the
education system. And we will start in those districts that do have the
electricity to use the computers and then we will slowly but surely expand
USAID has committed up to $2 million US to help implement the project. Microsoft will set up and
manage an interactive website with education resources and curriculum,
including tools to help parents participate in their children's education.