Legislators sitting on Parliament’s Budget committee have accused the government of failing to have a comprehensive plan on the roll out of the long distance-learning programme through radio broadcast.
The MPs were yesterday examining a number of responses by the State Minister for Higher Education John Muyingo who had appeared to further explain the need for government to purchase 9 million radios to facilitate the long distance learning programme during the COVID-19 pandemic given that schools are closed.
Muyingo appeared alongside Ministry of Education officials and the Minister of State for Planning David Bahati.
The responses from government were borne out of a number of queries earlier raised by MPs during a similar meeting at the end of last month over the request by government for the appropriation of Shillings 336.8 billion supplementary budget to purchase the radio sets for all homesteads in the country.
However, a number of additional queries arose with the legislators accusing the government of taking Parliament for granted.
The MPs questioned the involvement of Uganda Broadcasting Corporation-UBC as the major contractor to air the learning programmes and also supervise private radio stations where the national broadcaster does not reach.
Patrick Isiagi, the Kachumbala county MP noted that there was absence of a plan to contract private radio stations and teachers to broadcast the lessons. He also noted that the ministry was not requesting for funds to run the programme including payment of teachers which raises a red flag.
Minister Bahati responded saying that the programme have been ongoing and the Ministries of Information, Communication and Technology-ICT and Education have been working together to ensure that home learning proceeds. He insisted that detailed plans had been drawn up and resources were available to run the programme.
Richard Othieno, the West Budama North MP insisted that the programme was not tenable. He quoted a report by the government budget monitoring team which stated that the programme is not a sustainable one.
He also says that the same report stated that the community prefers learning by seeing and not hearing.
Othieno suggested that the money meant for radios should be spent on equipping schools to meet the COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in order to re-open.
Muwanga Kivumbi, the Butambala County MP described the planned procurement of radios as a scam, saying that the funds being requested for can build over 6000 classrooms across the country.
Kivumbi noted that the radio programme was not worth investing in and accused the government of hoodwinking parliament during previous appropriations for hoes and masks where the money was misappropriated.
He added that the country does not have the capacity to manufacture 5 million radios locally in the time frame indicated.
Amos Lugoloobi, the Budget Committee Chairperson noted that the committee will need a detailed work plan of the operationalization of the long study programme before a decision on the purchase of the radios is made.