Universal Primary Education and the right to education in the post conflict setting : a case study of Gulu district
The aim of this study is to examine whether Universal Primary Education as a programme has been able to have all children of school going age access quality education in the post conflict setting. It also examines the extent to which this programme meets the curriculum needs of these children given the challenges that were brought about by the conflict in Northern Uganda. The study further reviews the relevant human rights instruments concerning the right to education and how they have been put in practice to enhance quality education in the post conflict setting of Northern Uganda. Uganda enacted various legal instruments, policies, programs and bodies related to education, such as the 1995 constitution of Uganda which established education as a right; the Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP) which has since changed to National Development Plan (NDP); the Local Government Act 1997; the Education Policy Review Commission Report; the Education Strategic Investment Plan (ESIP); the Education Act 2008; and the Education Sector Review process all of which have been enhanced by international guiding instruments including the UDHR (1948) , ICESCR (1966) which address among other issues, the right to education which Uganda ratified in 1987 wherein, state parties shall make it compulsory and free. The right to education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity as well as strengthening the respect for all human rights and freedoms. It is against this background that in December 1996 President Yoweri Museveni launched a policy of Universal Primary Education (UPE) in accordance with the government White Paper on Education (MoES, 1992) in which government was to provide free education to a maximum of four children from each family. This policy however, was revised in 2002 to cover all children of school-going age better known as ‘bonna basome’ and parents were expected to provide their children with clothing, stationery, transport, meals and medical care. However, the researcher comes in to shed more light on the fact that the conflict which lasted over 20 years necessitates the provision of an educational system that may not be wholly in rhythm with the principles underpinning UPE. Bearing in mind the fact that UPE was first initiated for implementation in an essentially peaceful environment, the post conflict setting prevailing in Northern Uganda presents unique challenges to the programme, not foreseen at the time of its inception. Therefore, can UPE, as an education delivery system, in its present, unmodified form, guarantee the right to quality education for majority populations in Northern Uganda who have been victims of the conflict? Isn’t there a danger of creating more disparities in education quality and performance when the curriculum needs of children in the post conflict setting are not specifically addressed? How “universal” should UPE be in the wake of the negative effects of the conflict to the people in Northern Uganda and what strategies need to be adopted to ensure real universality of the programme for all people of Uganda as a whole? This research therefore sets out to address questions such as these with a view of ensuring the right to quality education in the post conflict environment of Northern Uganda. The researcher goes on to establish these issues using a case study of Gulu district (with specific representation from Koch Ongako and Koch Koo divisions) having been one of the districts at the epitome of the conflict in Northern Uganda. Various methods including interviews, Focus Group Discussions, observation and photography are undertaken to collect data from the field. Much as UPE has enabled children especially the OVCs (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) and “the would be” child heads to access school, findings of the study also indicate a number of challenges that hinder quality education including less attention paid to the traumatic needs of children, automatic promotion, inadequate and irregular funding, inadequate number of teachers, limited infrastructural materials, no provision of lunch among others. Uniquely, it is noted that urban schools (Gulu Public P. 7 school and Gulu Prison P.7 School) were quite better than those in the rural setting (Koch-Ongako P.7 School and Koch- Koo P.7 School) in terms of infrastructural availability, number of teachers, among other things. However, this does not mean that they are well with regard to the provision of quality education. An investigation of the challenges hindering education service delivery in the post conflict setting is a clear manifestation of relegating the right to education. It is therefore evident that the adoption of the theory of Human Development would be one of the most appropriate approaches of dealing with these challenges since it emphasizes assessing development by how well it expands the capabilities of all people through enlarging a person’s ‘‘functioning and capabilities to function, the range of things that a person could do and be in his/her life. In addition to this, the Human Development approach unlike many other (basic needs and neo-liberalism approaches), embraces the aspects of rights, freedoms, and human agency. Therefore the HRBA as a method of enhancing public policy is pertinent in the human development approach since it recognizes the promotion of human rights and legal frameworks that guarantee human rights not only for their intrinsic value, but also for their instrumental value in promoting agency (individual and collective). These obligations require the accountability of the ‘‘duty bearers,’’ and are enforceable by law.