At the National Celebration of the International Day of Education on 24 January 2023
Remarks by Dr. M. Munir A. Safieldin on behalf of the Education Development Partners Group (EDPG)
On behalf of the Education Development Partners Group, I am delighted to join you in celebrating the International Day of Education 2023. This year’s theme, “Invest in People, Prioritize Education”, highlights the importance of education as the best investment in people and nations. This theme is timely as the world is struggling to recover from the learning losses caused by Covid-19 and the unprecedented school closure.
While declaring 24th January as the International Day of Education, the UN General Assembly called for enhanced international cooperation in providing quality and equal education for all. The Transforming Education Summit organized by the UN Secretary-General last year amplified the same call.
The Education Development Partners Group is committed to achieving this same global goal in partnership with Uganda. We clearly see the link between prioritizing education and the achievement of Uganda’s vision of a Transformed Ugandan Society from a Peasant to a Modern and Prosperous Country by 2040. As such, I feel privileged to address you on behalf of the EDPs and I thank the organizers for this opportunity.
With the declaration of Universal Primary Education in 1997 and Universal Secondary Education in 2008, Uganda has made a high-level political commitment to investing in people. Parents have responded with great enthusiasm; every year more than 2.2 million children are voluntarily enrolled by their parents in primary one. This is good news. However, only one-third of those enrolled in primary grade one complete a full cycle of primary education. Furthermore, those who are completing a full cycle of general education and graduating from S-7 represent around 5% of those who are currently enrolled in primary level one. This is the big challenge we need to address collectively.
Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues,
The education system in Uganda urgently needs additional investments to (1) reduce the out-of-pocket school expenses on parents and (2) enhance the quality of learning. Additional investments in these two critical areas will improve school retention and learning outcomes for all children, which, in turn, will give Uganda the human resources it needs to achieve the desired social and economic transformation.
I already shared with you the fact that only one-third of children entering primary one is completing a full cycle of primary education. Let me share with you another important fact about the learning outcomes for primary school students. An independent study conducted by NGO UWEZO Uganda in 2021 revealed that only 48% of learners in Primary level 5 could read and understand a story that should be well-read and comprehended by students at Primary Grade 2 level. The same study revealed that for numeracy skills, 59% of Primary 5 learners are performing at Primary 2 level of competency. . With additional investments in the education sector, Uganda will reach its desired goal of transforming the society and the economy in the shortest possible time.
As the chair of EDP, I note with pleasure that the budget framework paper for 2023-2024 shows a 91% increase in external financing of the education sector in Uganda. This is excluding the off-budget support. At the same time, the EDP members are concerned by the proposed reduction in the proportion of the national budget allocated to education. I very much hope that the final budget will show an increased domestic investment in the education sector. Increased domestic and external investments in the education sector is what Uganda needs the most.
Hon. Minister, we are honoured to have you as the Chief Guest in this special ceremony. You have been associated with the transformation of the education system in the 1990s when Uganda took the right and courageous decision of declaring the adoption of Universal Primary Education.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am pleased to note Uganda’s unshakeable commitment to education. The statement of HE the President of Uganda at the parliament after the budget was read on 14th June 2022. I quote; “We may not do it this year but in the next financial years, we should insist on free and compulsory primary and even secondary education” I assure Uganda of the full commitment of the Education Development Partners to support the education transformation in Uganda and to work with the Ministry of Education and Sports under the leadership of the First Lady and Honorable Minister of Education and Sports, Mama Janet Museveni, to ensure quality education for every child in Uganda.
On behalf of the Education Development Partners Group, I thank you.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/uganda