A study on social protection programs for the poor children in Uganda:A case of the Universal Primary Education (UPE) Program
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The government of Uganda has implemented various forms of social protection programs focusing on different social groups within the population. The Universal primary education (UPE) program has been selected among others, for this thesis, as one of the social protection programs focusing on the poor children. The program was introduced in January 1997 and has been implemented hitherto, with a view to enrolling all children of primary –school age, addressing concerns about inequity in education on the basis of socio-economic status and gender, and improving education quality outcomes. The overall objective of the study is to examine the educational opportunities for the poor children that have come along with the introduction and subsequent implementation of UPE program in Uganda; the challenges facing the implementation of the program; and the strategies the government of Uganda has put in place to address these challenges. The findings of the study indicate that the UPE program has increased access to and affordability of basic education by children most of whom from poor families who had been previously not attending school. Consequently, there was sudden massive primary school enrollment from 2.5 million in 1996 to 5 million in 19997 and 8.3 million in 2012. Other educational opportunities that have come along with the introduction and subsequent implementation of UPE program include reduction in primary school dropout for the first six years before it started rising again in the recent past; achieving gender parity in school enrollment; and creating educational opportunities for children with various categories of special needs. The findings further indicate that despite these opportunities, the UPE program is facing challenges that are affecting its effective implementation. The major challenges include declining quality of primary education, increasing rates of school dropout, limited financial resources, corruption and mismanagement of financial resources (UPE funds). Amidst these challenges, the government of Uganda through the Ministry of education and sports has put in place various strategies to address these challenges in order to enable UPE program achieve its goal and objectives. These include introduction of customized performance targets guidelines in UPE schools to address the challenge of declining quality of education, introduction of several programs to address the challenge of rising school dropout rates, increasing budget for primary education over the years though it has been reduced in the recent past to finance the Universal secondary education (USE) program, and devising mechanisms for fighting corruption in UPE program implementation. The thesis proposes recommendations that would keep the UPE program on track and be able to achieve its goal and objectives. These include imploring the government through ministry of education to strive and strike a balance between quantity (in terms of massive enrollment) and quality of education; double efforts in mitigating increased rates of school dropout; increase and maintain sufficient budget for both UPE and USE programs without having one program affecting implementation of the other; and use a multi-stakeholder approach in fighting corruption in the implementation of UPE program.
Master in International Social Welfare and Health Policy