Minister abandons children’s meeting

Kampala-Children were yesterday treated to heated exchange between several MPs and the State Minister for Primary Education, Dr Kamanda Bataringaya. This occurred at a forum in Kampala yesterday organised by the National Council for Children. Children representing different regions of Uganda read out their issues to the minister and dignitaries’ present, most of which were appeals to government to improve nutrition in schools, reduce teacher absenteeism and improve their learning environments.

“We request government to have food introduced in schools. It should be nutritious and sufficient,” said Kayira Jamira, a pupil representing Busoga region.

“In some schools, you find that teachers do not even teach and they are alcoholics,” lamented Hendry Awolere, who represented Karamoja. The expectation was that the government representative would respond to the children’s concerns and mention measures being taken by government to address them.

Dr Bataringaya instead mentioned achievements of the NRM government and defended its record on education rather than respond to concerns raised by the children.

“There is absenteeism amongst you children as much as there is amongst the teachers. However for our teachers, we are dealing with it. Those not working will be dealt with, ” he said.

“The NRM government has taken care of our education sector. We are the only country in Africa implementing different education programmes like UPE, USE, UPLET and a student loan scheme all at once,” he said.Dr Bataringaya added that in the 20142015 budget education has been given great priority.

The moderator, Mr Mondo Kyateka from the Labour ministry, announced that the minister would be leaving for a Cabinet meeting shortly after his speech. Kalungu West MP Joseph Ssewungu pleaded with the minister to remain a little longer to take questions from the children and MPs since that was the purpose of the meeting.

“Hon minister, you are bound by the Constitution and collective responsibility to stay and debate these issues and listen to the children. Surely Cabinet can understand that you are deliberating on issues of great importance,” he said.

However, the minister insisted on departing without taking the questions and pandemonium ensued. An infuriated Ssewungu stormed out of the meeting in the company of Bugabula County North MP Allen Andrew and other legislators.“I cannot stay here, I can’t!” shouted the MP as he and his colleagues departed. “He says they are increasing the Education budget yet they are cutting capitation grant and are unable to fund exams. Why is he lying to Ugandans?” Mr Ssewungu asked.

kdidas@ug.nationmedia.com

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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