The second school term of 2014 opened on May 19th and is closing on August 8 but the capitation grants have not yet been released to the Universal Primary Education (UPE) schools. In 2002, the government introduced the capitation grant to UPE schools to replace fees that were abolished.
Accordingly, the government pays annual tuition fees for all pupils in public schools and grant-aided schools referred to as the UPE capitation grant through the various district local governments. School expenditures that are eligible for UPE capitation grant include: instructional and scholastic materials (35 per cent), co-curricular activities (20 per cent), school management (15 per cent), and administration (10 per cent) and contingency expenditure (20 per cent).
In a recent statement released by the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, government acknowledged that disbursement of the capitation grant had been delayed on technical grounds. According to the statement explained that the delays stemmed from the change in the payment system from the quarterly system to the termly system, effective December 2013. The Prime Minister on the other hand said that the government cannot remit any money to the schools until ghosts are weeded out.
As Government officials continue providing contradictory explanations, the late disbursement of UPE capitation funds is greatly affecting the implementation of the UPE programme. Consequently, many UPE schools are struggling with the budgetary shortfall by either passing on the burden to their pupils in form of asking for development fees, or reduce spending on essential services and supplies like scholastic materials, hence compromising the quality of output. Majority of UPE schools already suffer from severe budget deficits every term and delays in receipt of UPE capitation grants makes schools’ daily survival even more precarious. This makes planning by school administrations very unpredictable and hence the attendant negative consequences on learning, as seen through the performance of many UPE schools.
UPE schools are frequently forced to incur debts with local suppliers while waiting for the disbursement of UPE capitation grants. This not only results in a reduction in quality and quantity of services but also limits schools ability to organise and track their spending. As capitation grants are spent before disbursement, balancing of schools’ budgets becomes increasingly difficult—if not impossible.
However, some schools do not have the social capital to receive credit from local suppliers which forces them to go without essential supplies. If schools are able to pass on the fiscal burden to students through increases in development fees, they will frequently do so. Yet, in many UPE communities, poverty inhibits families from contributing to schools budgets through development fees and fees increase results in an even lower incidence of payments and increase in drop-out rates. In short, the delay of UPE capitation grants results in the deterioration of the quality of education provided by UPE schools due to their inability to access essential supplies such as scholastic materials, food stuffs and sanitation.
In order for the UPE capitation funds to have impact, the government should disburse the funds in full and on time. Otherwise, funds arriving at the end of a school term when it can no longer be used to benefit the pupils is detrimental to the quality of education.
Ms Nakulima is senior programme officer, Initiative for Social and Economic Rights
First published at http://www.monitor.co.ug/OpEd/Commentary/Late-release-of-Capitation-Grant-crippling-UPE-schools/-/689364/2400692/-/veqs3qz/-/index.html