As part of a policy aimed at providing universal access to primary education, the government of Uganda in 1997 eliminated primary school fees. The result was almost doubling of enrollments which schools were unprepared to accommodate and that put the school system on the verge of collapse under tremendous pressure.
IDA provided emergency funds to finance the education sector budget and to respond to the surge of enrollments. But, more importantly, this Education Sector Adjustment Credit (ESAC) provided the framework for a harmonized and coordinated donor support to the sector. Together with the governments of the UK, Denmark, Netherlands, Ireland, and the US, as well as the EU, IDA prepared and supported an education sector investment operation, with the long-term aim of enabling the government of Uganda to use resources efficiently, protect the quality of teaching and learning, and strengthen management of the sector. Uganda was the first country in Africa to have a coordinated and harmonized donor support to the education sector.
Primary enrollment was not only sustained, but has continued to grow. Uganda's own universal primary education policy resulted in an increase in primary school enrolment from 3.1 million in 1996 to 7.3 million in 2006 and removed wealth and gender gaps among primary pupils. Resources are now being used efficiently to manage the school system.
- The level of resources available for the government's universal primary education program increased, including the government's increased share for recurrent expenditures and parents' voluntary contributions. The government is providing over 30 percent of the discretionary recurrent budget to education; of this 65 percent is for primary education.
- Flexible external funding enabled coverage of all priorities, including those of a recurrent nature. Share of recurrent expenditure on primary education exceeded 20 percent on average during the project.
- Accountability and transparency improved. By announcing education transfers in
newspapers and on the radio, the government informed parent associations of the amount of
money their schools should be receiving. The government’s campaign for better tracking and
transparency helped reduce leakage: resources reaching schools increased from 13 percent in 1996 to 80 percent in 2000.
- More efficient decentralized methods for classroom construction were successfully introduced. Payroll management was substantially improved (“ghost teachers,” previously 20 percent of the wage bill, were removed) and salaries are now paid on time.
- Uganda has shown progressive improvements in quality: for example, the percentage of pupils achieving defined levels of competency in literacy in the third primary level had increased to 46 percent in 2006 from 19 percent in 1996.
- IDA provided US$155 million, of which US$75 million was a grant in the context of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative.
- IDA helped the government establish a framework for coordinated donor support for universal access to primary education, the basis for scaling up support to the sector through the budget.
- IDA played a key role in helping the Ministry of Education and Sports build its partnership with other donor agencies through its technical support, including provision of day-to-day support and quality technical inputs.
- The IDA team helped Uganda establish an annual education sector review process which involves all stakeholders (district officials, members of parliament, NGOs and academia) to review progress, challenges and charting a way forward for the sector. IDA pioneered the use of Public Expenditure Tracking Surveys (PETS) in Uganda to detect leakage in budget allocations.
The UK, Denmark, EU, Ireland, the US, Netherland, Germany and UNICEF.
Once the project was completed in 2000, IDA support continued through an overall poverty reduction support credit. This kind of ongoing financing is possible when an institutional platform, firmly established in the country's own systems, is in place to absorb and efficiently use external budget support. In the case of Uganda, and other IDA beneficiaries, all donor assistance for education is harmonized through this agreed-to platform. The institutional structure also provides a platform–that includes civil society–for continuous policy dialogue–particularly to improve learning quality and retention. Efforts to improve quality are beginning to pay-off.