The United States is
working with Microsoft to improve education management with computer
technology. The U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID, will provide
two million dollars 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.
years ago Uganda introduced free primary education for all children, 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 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.
Ogwal says: "Teachers were here but some of them have refused to come. 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.
says the few teachers who do stay to work find themselves in overcrowded
classrooms without enough information or teaching resources:
"There is [a] 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 is what 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 explained the dilemma
have not been given an assignment because I have not met with my boss. 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 Budallanot 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. 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 and classroom."
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
we want to see is an education management information system that is fully
operational at the district level. 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
USAID has committed up to
two million US dollars 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.