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A wrong education?

By Dicta Asiimwe

Shs150bn loan at stake as ministry of Education faces opposition over professional training institutions

A meeting between ministry of Education officials and their counterparts from the ministry of Health on May 6 had an unusual agenda; formerly endorsing a World Bank-backed position on which ministry controls medical training schools in the country.

In effect the ministry of Health was licking its wounds.

The row between the two ministries started after President Yoweri Museveni asked the Prime Minister, Apollo Nsibambi, to investigate whether health training institutions should be moved from the ministry of Education to the ministry of Health.

The investigation was sparked off by complainants from ministry of Health that the quality of their workers had slowly declined due to what the Minister of Health Stephen Malinga at the time said was the corruption in the ministry of health.

These institutions had been transferred from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Education and Sports in 1998 on the recommendation of the World Bank who said each ministry should perform its core function. Since the core function of ministry of Education is to train, they got the health training institutions like nursing schools and midwives training schools and other institutions from other sectors.

The Nsibambi cabinet sub-committee recommended that the institutions be moved and the announcement was made in March 2009.

However this decision was reversed after the teachers in these institutions refused to go back to the ministry of Health and the ministry of Education complained that the committee had not given them a fair hearing.

Cabinet reversed the Nsibambi decision and got another committee headed by Minister for the Presidency Beatrice Wabudeya to coordinate talks between ministry of Health and ministry of education over these health institutions.

Going into the May 6 meeting, however, both parties mooted win-win solution.

The Minister of State for General Duties in the ministry of Health Richard Nduhura said moving the institutions to Makerere University College of Health Sciences would ensure they  are not directly be under ministry of education and its department of Business, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (BTVET).

He added that the ministry of Education could not award certificates, diplomas or degrees because it is not training or awarding institution. Instead under the Makerere University College of Public Health, the students would get their certificates from an internationally recognised institutions instead of certificates that can only be used in Uganda.

While the ministry of Education seems to be winning the battle for control of the health institutions since they will stay under ministry of education even if under Makerere University, it still has to convince parliament of their capacity to properly oversee these institutions. Some members are convinced they do not have the capacity.

While discussing the budget framework on April 27, the chairperson of the Parliamentary Social Services Committee, Rose Mary Seninde, threatened to allocate the Shs 14 billion meant for health institutions under ministry of Education to the ministry of Health.

In the same week, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga while officiating at a function to reduce maternal and infant mortality also said it was the fault of ministry of Education that Uganda did not have enough midwives and other health workers. She added that the health training institutions under ministry of Education had been neglected and should be returned to ministry of health.

Minister of Public Service Henry Muganwa Kajura has now joined the fray. He is blaming the poor quality of civil servants under his ministry on the poor education received from the ministry of Education.

Kajura was explaining to the Parliamentary Committee of Social Services why he had ignored a directive by parliament to borrow US$ 70 million for his ministry to improve their human resource but give up to US$ 47 million to the Uganda Management Institute (UMI), a government institution for training civil servants that falls under the ministry of Education. The loan is from the World Bank meant to improve the quality delivered Ugandan civil servants.

The public has been crying against poor service delivery by public servants and we are the ones who get blamed for these poor services yet you want ministry of Education to do the training, Kajura said.

The MPs on the committee supported Kajura. Ruth Kavuma MP Kalangala district said it was the school that shaped a persons character and not the workplace.

They should therefore allow ministry of public service to do their own training, she said.

The Minister of Higher Education Mwesigwa Rukutana said, however, that training civil servants is the duty of his ministry because they are better equipped and had provided the best training.

He said the ministries should instead liaise with the ministry of Education to improve the quality of students produced instead of just fighting for control of institutions.

We determine the curriculum, determine the teaching methods and if there is anything special they need from their workers, they should tell us instead of just fighting for territory, he said.

He added that his ministry was doing the best training and moving these institutions to another ministry would not per se make a difference in the quality be produced.

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