The UPE programme has required a significant increase in public expenditure devoted to primary education. Total education expenditure increased from 2.1% GDP in 1995 to 4.8% of GDP in 2000, while the share of the education sector in the national budget increased from 13.7% in 1990 to 24.7% in 1998. More importantly, under the country’s Education Sector Investment Plan, at least 65% of the education budget must fund primary education. The additional expenditure has been financed largely from debt relief provided under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, channeled via the country’s Poverty Action Fund.
Under the UPE programme, the Government of Uganda abolished all tuition fees and Parents and Teachers Association charges for primary education. Following its introduction, gross enrolment in primary school increased from 3.1 million in 1996 to 7.6 million in 2003. This amounts to an increase of 145% (4.5 million children), compared to an increase of 39% (0.9 million children) between 1986 and 1996. This is despite the fact that primary education was not made compulsory, nor entirely free, since parents were still expected to contribute pens, exercise books, clothing, and even bricks and labour for classroom construction.
Lawrence Bategeka and Nathan Okurut