About 15,000 children in Uganda last year attended school across the country as a result of receiving international remittances, research by WorldRemit, one of the leading digital money transfer companies for the Ugandan diaspora has revealed.
A remittance is a transfer of money by workers abroad (locally known as Nkuba Kyeyo) to a recipient in their home country. Ugandan diaspora revealed that education is one of the top priorities, with many saying they support the schooling of children back home.
The new research on ‘the link between education and remittances in Uganda’ was compiled by Dr. Gregory Thwaites, WorldRemit’s Research Director, comes at a time when millions of children worldwide, including in Uganda, head back to school next month. It was released in light of the World Bank’s recent announcement that remittances to Uganda had reached $893 million in 2018, accounting to about three percent of the GDP.
The World Bank estimates that the total value of international remittances was $689bn 2018.
In 2017, Ugandans working abroad sent back home about $1.37 billion (about Shs4.9 trillion), more than double the budget of the ministry of education in 2018-19 financial year. Education the number two most funded docket in Uganda received Sh2.4 trillion in 2018/19. Works and transport which receives the lion’s share of the budget at Sh4.7 trillion, is almost the budget of the total remittances to Uganda. Health got sh2.2 trillion, which is number three priority area for Uganda.
“Remittance-receiving households in Uganda spend more on education and spend less time working on non-school activities, freeing up more time for school studies.” The research revealed, adding that “in Uganda, children are 40 per cent less likely to be out of school in households that receive remittances.”
WorldRemit also calculates that globally, if traditional, cash-based money transfers were replaced by lower-cost digital alternatives, an additional $825 million would be unlocked for families to spend on children’s education.
“Savings from ‘going digital’ could pay for the equivalent of 20 million school uniforms, 30 million school books and 16 million sets of school supplies for children in low- and middle-income countries,” the research reveals.
“The average cost of digital remittances across the industry is 27 per cent cheaper than offline remittances, according to World Bank data.”
This was echoed by Ivan Kanyali, the WorldRemit Country Director.
He said, “As millions of children in Uganda start a new school year, our research is a timely reminder that the contributions of the diaspora are vital to the education of 15,000 children across the country. Switching to digital remittances would help maximise that even further.”
UNESCO estimates that there were over 8.9 million children of school age in Uganda in 2017. However, about 15 per cent of children aged 5-18 are not in school – over 1.3 million children.
Testimony: They can focus on their studies, knowing that money will come”
“Remittances were very important for my own education. When I was little my dad passed away, so I depended on the money my sister sent back to Uganda to pay for my school fees.” Joy Kyakwita.
Joy went to boarding school in a small town outside of Kampala. When she was 14, her father passed away so her older sister living in the UK would send money back home to pay for her school fees. Joy’s sister would arrange for a friend from church to go into Kampala and collect the money on behalf of Joy, as it wasn’t safe for a young girl to be carrying large sums of money around town.
After Joy completed her university degree in law at Makerere University she decided to move to the UK to work as an immigration lawyer. Once she got her first permanent job in 2005, she started sending money back home to Uganda for her nephews’ and nieces’ education.
Joy sent money to pay for the education of her nephew, Ambrose. Ambrose was doing his ‘A’ levels and was just about to sit his exams when his Dad died. Joy remembers Ambrose calling her up one day to say that he was not allowed to sit his exams that week because he couldn’t pay the fees. Joy sent the money directly into the head teacher’s mobile money account just in time for Ambrose to sit his exam. Now Ambrose is a surveyor and is independently paying for himself for further education.
“With WorldRemit I can send money directly into my family’s MTN mobile money accounts. My family don’t have to rely on others to go into town to collect the money, as I had to when I was growing up. They can focus on their studies, knowing that money will come,” she says.
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