Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The government has failed to eliminate quack teachers from both private and public schools, let alone free its payroll from ghost teachers. Understanding who is teaching in schools is one of the common queries raised by different reports, which is blamed for the poor academic performance and quality of education in general.
The government has over the years been using a variety of initiatives, including school inspections, teacher validation, and headcounts, some of which involved intelligence agencies, to align and clean up the teacher’s payroll to stop the bleeding of the national treasury through the payment of nonexistent teachers both in primary and secondary schools.
In 2012, the government established a Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Mismanagement of the Universal Primary and Secondary Education Programme. One of the issues on the agenda was investigating the issues of teachers. The commission chaired by High Court Justice Ezekiel Muhanguzi was angered by the carelessness of the Ministry of Public Service in handling the teachers’ payroll.
“Mismanagement of the payroll is one of those key facts that have led to wastage of resources, an example is in Abim district. So which schools do these excess 20 head teachers lead? Keeping absconders and the dead on the payroll has also wasted funds,” Justice Muhanguzi observed in 2012.
Ten years later, the problem has persisted costing the taxpayer billions of shillings. According to available data, the government spends Shillings 7.3 billion annually on salaries paid to unscrupulous teachers on the payroll. This amount of money can build three fully-equipped seed schools, each valued at Shillings 2.3 billion.
However, what is not computed is the damage to the learners who are taught by quake teachers. Recently, the Education Service Commission concluded yet another exercise of validating teachers. Although they have not yet officially released their findings, a sneak peek indicates that they have found over 1000 ghost teachers on the payroll.
Issa Matovu, a consultant on educational policy, says quack and ghost teachers are one of the issues plaguing the educational system since they give educational planners inaccurate information. He adds that a quick fix is necessary rather than pandering to the public by engaging in futile activities like headcounts whose impact is not seen.
“At the end of every investigation, they are able to tell us that we have found these head teachers, but no one is held accountable. A ghost teacher cannot exist without the knowledge of head teachers, district education officials, and some elements in the Ministry of Public Service. There should be a punitive measure than reading us numbers of how much we lose,” said Matovu.
He further notes that in this digital era, developing a teacher database is not rocket science but warns that there should be strong measures to keep the integrity of systems.
Patrick Kaboyo, an educationist is also hurt by the fact that the government is handling the problem as if no other countries have solved it before. “You can’t reinvent the wheel. Countries have offered solutions to this problem but we are acting as if we are the first to take on the problem. Our technocrats should look around and see what others have done to crash this problem,” Kaboyo said.
As Kaboyo points out, various tools and initiatives have been developed to fight the problem of ghost teachers and also have a clean register of teachers. For instance, the initiative “Improve Your School in Mexico” used the existing data and involved parents to solve the problem.
The educationist believes that getting the right model involving the community and parents as part of the oversight mechanism can solve the mess before anyone thinks of sophisticated means of using online systems since they can as well be compromised.
A parent-led campaign to require every primary school to publish information on financial inflows reportedly had a significant impact on minimizing budget leakage, according to a UNESCO report. This fund leakage decreased from 78% in 1995 to 18% in 2001. One wonders why the government has not thought of a similar method to eliminate quack and ghost teachers.
Kaboyo further notes that there is a need to realign and strengthen institutions like the inspectorate of schools and put up internal and external checks and balances in addition to heavy punishment for those found with fake documents and receive money from ‘ghost teachers’.
Neighboring Kenya has also grappled with the problem and has now resorted to biometric registration of teachers. This involves the usage of their fingerprints to capture details of those in the teaching sector. Additionally, each teacher has to produce their national identity card or birth certificate and any other relevant identification documents such as employment or designation letters.
With the introduction of the Teacher Management Information System-TMIS, Uganda wanted to carry out a similar program requiring teachers across the country to furnish the government with their bio-data and all academic qualifications, which are then verified with respective institutions.
However, this has been partially implemented. A source from the ministry who preferred anonymity to freely comment on the matter notes that the system is underutilized yet it can solve the current problem.
“The system has more than five functions. One of them is to verify academic documents, and link the submitted data with the national identification registration authority and the payroll, given the fact that the rack of people benefiting from the mess is within, they are frustrating the process from being affected,” the source said.
The source adds that the system has detected over 38,000 people with fake academic papers. “Incidentally, those teachers are still teaching in various schools across the country. These are not teachers, but masqueraders and they continue to teach our children,” the source adds.
The source added that a similar initiative has been adopted by Rwanda and has already started giving results. Rwanda unveiled the Teacher Management Information System in 2021 almost three years after Uganda deployed this electronic platform.
Dr. Jane Egau, the Director of Higher Education at the Ministry of Education, also believes putting the TMIS into full use will completely solve the problem. She however argues there is a need to ensure that the entered data is clean.
Dr. Egau, whose directorate is responsible for teacher education, registration, and development, says there is an urgent need to link the TMIS to the government payroll to root out individuals carrying fake documents.
Dr. Denis Mugimba, the spokesperson ministry of education says that prior to computerizing the system, the ministry of education didnt trust data coming from schools and local governments.“People could sit down and cook data, we have had ghost learners, ghost teachers, and ghost schools. But this will soon be in the past. We are going digital,” said Dr. Mugimba.
He adds that it is now a matter of time for the ministry to have a clean teachers register and payroll. He says there have been some delays in effectively using the TMIS system given the fact that they are still under the registering phase.