The agriculture and education sectors are identified among the primary growth sectors in the Uganda’s National Development Plan. However, despite consistent state budget allocation increments in recent years and high absorption rates, various challenges persist at implementation and service delivery. For instance, in the Financial Year 2015/16, the education sector under primary education, planned to construct 22 primary schools and 200 classrooms but only one school and two classrooms were constructed. Indeed, in the Rwenzori region in western Uganda, citizens are decrying poor services under government programmes.
Through a combination of online and offline mediums including SMS, the Me and My Leader Platform, radio, and physical engagements, local communities in western Uganda are demanding public accountability from local leadership and charting ways to collaboratively work together and address service delivery gaps in the two sectors in the region. Citizen’s participation through the various platforms and ongoing service delivery monitoring is facilitated by Advocacy Forums initiated by Toro Development Network. The Forums are composed primarily of women and youth who act as information intermediaries between the local leadership and communities. They utilise ICT to disseminate information, escalate service delivery grievances and directly engage with local duty bearers.
At an engagement meeting held in Kyegegwa district on January 31, 2018, local residents raised concerns to district officials about agricultural programmes meant to support the sector. They highlighted inadequate farm inputs such as late supply of seeds to farmers, as well as the lack of extension workers. These challenges arose from limited beneficiary involvement and consultation. According to members of the locality’s Advocacy Forum, in cases where consultations were done, citizens’ inputs did not match the final community needs determined by authorities and this had contributed to the failure of the projects.
At a similar meeting held on February 2, 2018, in Kyenjojo district, Katooke Advocacy Forum members raised several challenges affecting education services in their community. These included early marriages and teenage pregnancy, high rates of school drop-outs, high teacher: pupil ratios, limited and inadequate teachers and staff quarters, lack of meals for teachers and students, as well as the absence of sufficient accountability for funds received by some head teachers.
A teacher from Rubango Primary School pointed out the relationship between poor performance at school and the demands of agricultural households, stating that some parents compromise their children’s education by engaging them in farm activities at the cost of school attendance.
During the dialogues district leaders, teachers, parents and community members agreed to work together to address some of the challenges identified. In the agricultural sector, the Kyegegwa district councillor Maureen Birungi, committed to work hand in hand with farmers and the District Production Department to address priority needs and ensure the availability of inputs (fertilizers, herbicides, seeds, pesticides, land opening, value addition and water for production technologies) for the success of local farming programmes.
Meanwhile, Stella Kabanyoro, the Inspector of Schools in Kyenjojo district assured community members that the District Education Department was working to implement a score card system to help improve service delivery in local schools. “Effective this term we are going to give school management committees monitoring tools such that they monitor schools and report any anomalies even before education officials come on ground to do their monitoring,” stated Kabanyoro.
Follow ups on the commitments by the duty bearers in ongoing.
The work of the advocacy forums in Western Uganda is similar to that of a network of forums across Eastern and Northern Uganda, established by ICT4Democracy in East Africa partners to enable rural communities to monitor service delivery and participate in governance processes. In the western Uganda districts of Kabarole, Kyenjojo, Kyegegwa, Kamwenge and Ntoroko, Toro Development Network (ToroDev) setup and supports 15 Forums, including one comprised of journalists – the Rwenzori Journalists Forum.
In Lira and Oyam districts, Transparency International Uganda (TIU) set up and supports five forums to monitor health service delivery and report gaps via a toll free line while 12 forums were formed in the districts of Tororo and Busia in October 2016 to use various online and offline methods for social accountability.