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Health & Lifestyle Opinion

COVID19 AFTERMATH; WATCH THE RISING DISCRIMINATION.

Arans Tabaruka
Arans Tabaruka Rural Communities advocate and Africa Dossier Country Correspondent- Uganda.

This morning I woke up to stories. Stories of education in Uganda. Stories quite disgusting, of inequality, inaccess to education and the mischievous re-opening of educational institutions at the height of forced vaccination and the COVID19 pandemic. These stories are of glum at a point of recovery and in the aftermath of the pandemic globally in Uganda and my alma mater is yet again embroiled in a miscarriage of governance.
The education sector in Uganda has been faced with great frustration, absolute enough to remedy. It appears the only goal by the government during the COVID19 pandemic is to save lives and no doubt it’s paramount but akin to the old adage of “a lot of water has passed under the bridge”.
For emphasis, government closure of institutions and restrictions that seemed to work, instructions for schools to use online/ e-learning for both primary, secondary and tertiary institutions to inequalities of access to the internet to afford such learning by different sections of the learning group.
It is evident that learners like their teachers continue to struggle because of the growing discrimination. The government institutions teaching & non-teaching staff continued earning throughout compared to a large number of private institutions teaching and non-teaching staff, the learners too were to that effect but most alarming was the urban vs the rural learners.
I’m interested in knowing the margin of access to learning materials by both sections of learners (both urban-rural) and how relevant authorities have addressed it. Surprisingly, learners promised learning materials by the ministry of education and sports in the wake of the mandatory school closure to avert the COVID19 pandemic still wait. Let me try to be specific, southwards, one of the major rural districts is Kanungu, learners here still await a plan to roll out the learning materials. It still makes news and the wait is still on. This speaks to utter government discrimination of its citizens.

Discrimination? The Constitution of Uganda in Article 21(1)(2)(3)(4)(b) provides for freedom from discrimination. In furtherance of this freedom, Article 21 Clause 4 (a) is emphatic, to draw parliament’s attention to address this discrimination.

The education sector in Uganda, already constrained by many challenges such as the high level of teacher and student absenteeism, weak school level management structures, inadequate availability of learning materials, and large class sizes in addition to inadequate government funding and the gap created by the economic strain caused by the pandemic might have to dangle with this burden too.
The government’s commitment in its free education policy to make education equitable to eliminate disparities and inequalities, and ensure that education is affordable by the majority of Ugandans is challenged.
This is prima facie as government plans a phased re-opening of schools, it has clearly moved on and some learners will be promoted to the next class as others will face punishment.
The tertiary institutions will continue to charge discriminative amounts of money, keep the students learning in a staggered manner with online learning at the cost of a parent and learner while the disabled and rural-based learners remain victims. It surely makes it absolute insanity to imagine somebody somewhere is in charge of this discrimination. An idiot just whispered to me just get the military in charge of the education sector and things will move (sheer folly). I know the education and sports ministry should have a grip on the quality control of education in Uganda and yet such discriminative avenues persist.

Later on that; our parliament has the mandate to fulfil provided by Articles 79 (1)(3) and 21(4)(a) 34(2)(4)(7) and Articles xiv(b) and xviii national objectives and directive principles of state policy. It’s a shame that they have to be reminded of their duty.

I’m hesitant to mention that many learners have been left out and denied their right to education enshrined in Article 30 of the Constitution of Uganda. A fundamental human right is indispensable for the exercise of other human rights.
It’s appropriate that equality of opportunity, universal access, and enforceable and monitored quality standards of education in Uganda be provided for this right to work for all of us.
Learning went on using Google teams, zoom and many other e-learning platforms such as MUELE at Makerere University and Claned for Cavendish University and other tertiary institutions, needless to say without consideration for the disabled.
Many secondary school learners from well to do families continued classes on the same platforms without consideration of ones from rural communities such as Rutenga in Kanungu where electricity and internet are still but a dream either for distribution or access. You too have learnt of primary and pre-primary schools conducting online classes. This is presumed possible if a learner has a gadget, can access power and the internet and is not physically hand caped.
We have in fact written to respective legislators in respect to this discriminative nature of relief approaches by the government but not a lot has been done to raise it. It is presumed that the powers that be know what to do.
As it is again the common postulate, “survival for the fittest” is being applied. It may be true that the law of evolution is that the strongest survives but that is not the spirit of the law envisaged in the 1995 constitution of Uganda and the subsequent enabling laws.
It is clear that an equitable environment is provided by law in our 1995 constitution and ideal that justice is done to all citizens from rural to the urban, peasant to middle class and leave the thriving to humankind.

From the lessons learnt in the previous universal education rollout. It has demonstrated that a poor country with a committed government can fight poverty by ensuring universal access to education for its citizens.

The significant increase in primary and secondary school enrolment is an indication that lack of financing to learn was a big impediment to accessing education, especially for poor households. It is however not too late to salvage.
Presumptive quality control by the government and re-imagining institutional roles to tackle institutional constraints to deliver quality education services, taking advantage of opportunities offered by the liberalization of the education sector, and reducing inequity in access to education across the country and between rural and urban areas and gender is paramount.
We can use the same energy used against the control of COVID19 on vices that could lead our society to virtue and moral decadence to urgently address the injustice that comes with discriminative tendencies that are emerging out of the pandemic.

The writer, Arans Tabaruka is a rural community advocate, Editor of the African Dossier and an LLM(Human Rights Student – Cavendish University) working with Integrated Rural Communities Empowerment (IRUCE). aransmark85gmail.com.

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Arans Tabaruka
Arans Tabaruka

Editor and Africa correspondent

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