43 Ghost Schools Smoked out of 26 Districts

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In short
The Ministry of Finance has discovered up to 43 ghost schools in several districts following an impromptu head-count ordered by Minister Maria Kiwanuka, in August this year.

The Ministry of Finance has discovered up to 43 ghost schools in several districts, following an impromptu head-count ordered by Minister Maria Kiwanuka, in August this year.

A  team of investigators from the Finance Ministry also discovered several ghost teachers and pupils, claiming to be teaching and studying at the non-existent schools.

On Thursday last week, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Chris Kassami, wrote to his counterpart in the ministry of education, Francis Lubanga, warning that the suspected ghost schools and districts would not be given funds if they did not provide satisfactory explanation to the findings.

Details of  the letter, a copy of which  Uganda Radio Network has seen, states a total of 1,656 primary schools in 26 districts were sampled; some partially while others in full. The shocking findings reveal that out of the visited schools, 17 percent of them were ghosts.

Moyo district was found with one ghost school out of the 14 schools sampled, while Adjumani district was found with four ghost schools out of the 66 schools counted  and Kayunga district was found with eight ghost schools out of 118 schools visited. Other districts visited included Bukedea, Gulu, Budaka and Nebbi among others.

Kassami, reveals that 43 schools were non-existent, 266 teachers out of 16,505 are ghosts and an unnamed number of pupils were not found in the class during the counting.

The officials from the finance ministry asked classmates of the absent pupils to name their colleagues who were not present during the counting time to compare their numbers with those on the enrolment registers.

A senior source privy to the findings said the ministry was convinced by the full proof investigation method employed during the head count and had now thrown the burden to the education ministry to explain.

But the Ministry of Education on Tuesday said it was still premature to offer a comprehensive answer to the findings of the Finance Ministry.

Godfrey Dhatemwa, the Commissioner for Education Planning, said he had received Kassami’s letter only on Monday and had directed responsible officers under his department to gather the full data to be used in the explanation. He referred URN reporter to his assistant who is in charge of statistics in the ministry.

The Assistant Commissioner for Statistics, Monitoring and Education, Joseph Eilor, said he had only received the letter on Tuesday and that a team was in the process of gathering the data to respond to the queries raised one by one.

Eilor however said that the responsible officers would be the District Education Officers (DEOs) who are the local managers in the districts. He explained that under the decentralization policy, recruitment, deployment and disciplining of teachers is the responsibility of the DEOs since primary education was decentralized.

Eilor said that if there was any ghost school, pupil or teacher in any district, the blame would be the responsibility of the local governments and not even the education ministry because they would not know.

According to Eilor, district data is endorsed by District Education Officers.

He said under the current system, the education ministry only works on policy guidelines, providing standard guidelines and planning of the wage bill, while operationalizing it is under the ambit of the local government.  

Kassami was not available for comment since Monday but his deputy, Keith Muhakanizi, said he had just returned from a long leave and would need to first study the details of the report before commenting. But he confirmed that before he went on leave, he knew his staffs were commissioned by the ministry to undertake the survey in the countryside.

Muhakanizi however says that if the final findings confirm the presence of the ghost schools, pupils and teachers, the Chief Administrative Officers, who are the accounting officers in the district, will take the responsibility.

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