The low uptake of scholarships offered to Uganda has become a major concern to legislators on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC – Central Government).
A review of scholarships offered to Uganda in the last three years laid bare that out of 280 scholarship slots provided, only 162 are filled, resulting in an under absorption of 42 per cent.
While meeting the technical team from the Ministry of Education and Sports led by the Permanent Secretary, Ketty Lamaro, on Thursday, 15 December 2022 on the audit report for the financial year ended 30 June 2021, MPs asked for proper management of both government and bilateral scholarships for full absorption to maximise benefits.
“One of the hindrances on [bilateral] scholarships is when the beneficiaries are asked to pay for their own accommodation or medical care [which they cannot afford]. The education ministry needs to improve on their budgeting to cater for all these,” said Tororo South MP, Hon. Fredrick Angura.
The permanent secretary blamed this on budgetary cuts and inadequacies resulting from the recent COVID-19 pandemic.
Hon. Sarah Opendi (NRM, Tororo District Woman Rep.) urged the ministry to fast-track the process of developing a scholarship policy to address gaps in the management of scholarships as advised by the Auditor General.
“You claim to be giving out scholarships, but where are these adverts put? People are being asked to pay money in exchange for scholarships. We need a policy which should come before the law and once the law is out then we shall need guidelines to operationalise the law. So people [at the ministry] are sleeping on the job,” Hon. Opendi said.
The Auditor General in his report had indicated that Uganda’s lack of a policy on scholarships had limited the country’s ability to advance the interest of the ministry when negotiating for bilateral scholarships.
According to Lamaro, the ministry has already drafted a policy on scholarships and awaits submission to cabinet for approval.
Tasked by the committee chairperson, Hon. Medard Sseggona (NUP, Busiro East) to explain why the education ministry did not have records of the number of students who have benefited from bilateral scholarships, the Commissioner for Admissions, Scholarships and Students’ Affairs at the ministry, Muzamil Mukwatampola, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is best suited to know the exact beneficiaries.
“The bilateral scholarships come to us through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; we rely on what they send us. So we cannot claim to know all scholarships because we do not handle bilateral issues,” he said.
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