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Basic education, poverty reduction and the realisation of equality in Northern Uganda

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This paper seeks to apply Human Capital Theory and Human Rights approach to critically analyse benefits of basic education in poverty reduction and realisation of regional equality in Northern Uganda. The argument looks at why and how to invest in basic quality education for all. The paper further identifies indicators of poverty and inequality and analyses the nature of these indicators with respect to education in Northern Uganda and Finally the paper analyses the economic implication of these indicators on education as well as the implication on the rights of children to education in the region.


Table of Contents

Executive summary


North Eastern/Karamoja Sub region.
Northern Uganda

What is the nature and forms of the inequality and poverty in Northern Uganda?
1. Development and Poverty
2. Education
a) Proportion of the population with primary education.
b) Enrollment.
c) Quality.
3. Access to infrastructure

What are the economic implications of unequal access to basic education?
Human Capital theory

Benefits of basic education in poverty reduction and realisation of regional equality
Improved health
ROR of education at primary level.
Increased productivity of existing labor force and economic growth.
Improvement in basic education leads to diversification of economy.
Improved Agricultural productivity and development of new technology.
Women’s participation in Politics.
Education helps to reduce conflicts.


Access to education in a conflict and chronic poverty situation: what is the implication on Child rights? Human Rights analysis






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Executive summary

This paper seeks to apply Human Capital Theory and Human Rights approach to critically analyse benefits of basic education in poverty reduction and realisation of regional equality in Northern Uganda. The argument looks at why and how to invest in basic quality education for all. The paper further identifies indicators of poverty and inequality and analyses the nature of these indicators with respect to education in Northern Uganda and Finally the paper analyses the economic implication of these indicators on education as well as the implication on the rights of children to education in the region.


Whereas conflict is blamed for the current severe poverty and inequality trends in Northern Uganda, underinvestment in basic education and public infrastructure significantly might have contributed to these situation, thus, ‘restricting opportunities and maximization of the rate of returns to education’ (World Bank 2012,p.25).Forms of inequality are observed in access and quality of public services, monetary poverty and low consumption rate with a rising ‘Gini coefficient which stands at 0.426, indicating a distressing trend towards increased income inequality’ in the community (Kaduru, 2011, p.5). Wilkinson and Pickett (2009, p.2), noted that income inequality harms not only the poorest people but almost everybody in society, hence they call for more ‘egalitarian’ distribution of income. Expanding educational investment would lead to increased public infrastructure, employment opportunities and income based for household members resulting in further human capital accumulation and their endowments (World Bank, 2012; Higgins,2009), without which the MDGs 1, 2 and 3[1] will not be achieved by 2015.


Uganda is a landlocked country in East Africa with a total population of 34.1 million which is growing at a rate of 3.3% (World Bank, 2007a). 7.5 million (24.5%) are poor, 85% of the population live in rural areas constituting 94.4% of national poverty. Literacy rate is 73 %, life expectancy is 50.2 and 42 years in North east Uganda (UNHS; 2009/10).The infant mortality rate is 54 death per 1000 life. Fertility rate is 6.2 children per woman, income inequality increased from 0.408 in 2005/06 to 0.426 in 2009/10 nationally (UNHS 2009/10).

Uganda has experienced considerable political instability and insecurity with devastating effects on education and the economy (Leefers, 2004).This situation put pressure on the current regime to develop a recovery policy to boost the education sector (MoES, 2004).In 1996, the international initiative of the MDGs and its objective of EFA led to change in enrollment as shown in Figure1.

Fig 1: Total primary school enrollment 1990 to 2009 in Million.

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Source: UNHS 2009/10

North Eastern/Karamoja Sub region.

North Eastern/Karamoja sub region consists of seven administrative districts: Abim, Kaabong, Kotido, Moroto, Amudat, Napak and Nakapipirit.The main ethnic groups are the Dodoth, the Jie and the Karamojong. Being traditionally nomadic pastoralist region, the government failed to establish formal education systems over the claim that pastoralist perceive formal education as threat to their culture (ADB/UNESCO-IIEP 2005).[2] Karamoja remains the least developed part of the country with lower human development indicators due to limited access to school, poor infrastructure resulting in abject poverty and regional inequality.[3]

Northern Uganda

Since 1986, Northern Uganda has been engulfed in a civil war between the LRA and government army (UPDF), with 90% of the population relocated to Internally Displaced persons’ camps (Ssewanyana, Younger, Kasirye, 2007).LRA activities and effects on children’s rights have been reported in Zed books 2010.The instability devastated all socio- economic activities. This resulted in gross poverty as consumption per adult equivalent grew at an annualized rate of 1.5 compared to the national average rate of 3.6 (UBoS 2006). Major determinants of standard of living such as life expectancy reduced, prevalence of disease became high, access to social services including education, access to water, sanitation and electricity became limited and the satisfaction of nutritional needs were poor. Consequently, these resulted into severe poverty and regional inequalities as the rest of the regions pulled away. 53% of the population in the Northern region cannot read as compared to the national average of 68% in 2005 (Ssewanyana, et al, 2007; UBoS, 2005).[4]

What is the nature and forms of the inequality and poverty in Northern Uganda?

The nature and forms of the inequality and poverty are explained in detail as follows.

1. Development and Poverty

Although the national poverty rate declined to 24.5% in 2009/10 from 31% in 2005/06 (UBoS 2012; UNHS 2009/10), incidence of poverty remains highest (46.2%) in the Northern region, higher than the national average (24.5%) and least (10.7%) in the central region. This indicates that regional differences in ‘household endowments and opportunities created by infrastructure investments increased in central region and other regions rather than the North’ and hence resulting in the region lagging behind in monetary poverty and access to quality public services (World Bank 2012b.p.4). The Northern region has lagged behind and kept accumulating a higher share of the poor throughout the past two decades. The region has more poor people and has deeper levels of poverty too as shown in figure 2.

Figure 2: Trends in distribution of the poor by region, 1992/93 - 2009/10

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Source: World Bank 2012b.

2. Education

a) Proportion of the population with primary education.

According to World Bank (2012b, p.20), the proportion of population with incomplete primary schooling is lowest in Central region (39%), while the Northern region has the highest proportion (67%).Consequently, given that education determines employment activities and earnings, the regional variation in ‘educational attainment inevitably led to regional inequality’ (See annex Fig:3).

b) Enrollment.

Although the implementation of the UPE since 1997 has had significant effects on enrolment there is no robust evidence that enrollment of children from poor households has increased as indicated in Table 1 and 2 below with North Eastern region having the lowest share of total enrollment in 2009 at 1.5%, this trend did not change in 2010 as the share of total enrolment remained the lowest at 1.60%. Northern region has the lowest (22%) proportion of government schools compare to Western region with 53%. According to Sen in Pogge (2007, p.32), poverty persists because poor countries have ‘little government schools, hospitals and infrastructures’ and thus calls for appropriate economic policy and social institutions to expand social institutions.

Table 1 Primary enrolment by region 2009

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Source: EMIS data 2009

Table: 2 Primary enrolments by region 2010

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c) Quality.

The gains (83%) in access to primary education arising from UPE need to be consolidated by increasing the quality of primary education in lagging areas. According to World Bank, (2012b, p.10; MoES 2012), the average PTR in the rural Northern region from 2008 to 2012 was double the average PTR in Kampala; this shows the wide variation in quality of primary school education. It also points out the challenges which are likely to be encountered in the process of expanding basic education in the region to promote equality. The MoES report (2012) also indicates that North Eastern Uganda had the lowest GER in 2009 with the two districts of Kotido and Moroto at 45.5% and 47.5% respectively. Exclusion from basic education is a denial of ‘fundamental human rights’ as well as deprivation from ‘economic asset to fight poverty’ (Rolleston, 2009, p.11).

Fig. 4: Access and quality of primary education

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Source: World Bank 2012b .

3. Access to infrastructure


About 62% of households in Kampala have access to electricity but only a mere 1% and 2% do so in the North and North East respectively (World Bank, 2012b, p.9). Denninger and Okidi’ (2003) report shows that poverty reduction benefits of access to basic education depend on complimentary investments in electricity and other infrastructure (Also see Annex Fig: 5). Limited access to education and public infrastructure are key drivers of ‘spatial inequality’ in Uganda (World Bank, 2012b, p.24). Given the above inequalities, the remedies remain ‘Uganda’s inclusive growth challenge’ which requires acknowledgment of the underlying causes of inequality and drivers of poverty and poverty reduction in Uganda (World Bank, 2012b, p.12).

Inequality in income distribution is substantially reduced by the ‘increased investment in basic education’ (Appiah and McMahon 2002. p.30). Reduction of poverty and inequality depends on whether education policies extend education and other services widely, especially to farmers and national policies that determine who gets the education (Appiah and McMahon, 2002; Pogge, 2007; Brempong 2010). According to Raws in Pogge (2007, p.31), societies fail to flourish because of the public political culture, the religion and ‘philosophical traditions that underlies its institutions’.

What are the economic implications of unequal access to basic education?

The effects of education on economic growth as well as on measures of ‘non-market social outcomes’ of education relevant to human welfare such as lower fertility rates, better health, and improved democratic processes have been found in many studies (Appiah and McMahon, 2002, p.3). Brempong (2010) asserted that enrollment in school and placement in jobs both result in better supervision. These indirect effects of education on economic growth attract greater investment. According to Colclough, C., G. Kingdon, and Patrinos,(2009) ; Manda, Mwabu and Kimenyi, (2002) investment in education has a high social priority in developing countries that are still in great need of skilled manpower. Keith (2011) asserted that education is a public good which has social benefits above the level of the individual. According to Wilkinson et al (2009, p. 18), ‘poor health and violence are more common in unequal societies’. They added that, problems which are frequently experienced at the bottom of social ladder are more prevalent in unequal societies. As a result, it is not just health but a lot more of social problems that are associated with unequal society (ibid).Unequal access to basic education means denying Northern Ugandan the numerous benefits of education thus, this paper seeks to promote and advocate for basic education as a remedy to address the problems that arise from exclusion from basic education-answering the ‘Why’ and’ How’ arguments.

Human Capital theory

Human Capital Theory is defined as human capabilities which have been developed through formal or informal education at schools or at home, through training, experience, and on-job-training at workplace (Mincer, 1981). Accordingly, HCT emphases that, education serves to enhance human capital to realise full potential (Belfield, 2000; Becker, 1985). HCT is the basis for connecting education and labour market (Belfield, 2000).Education represents investment in human capital for return value (Mincer, 1981). The return value can be monetary or non-monetary and the costs is the opportunity foregone (Bjorklund and Kjellstrom, 2002). The benefits of Human Capital accumulation are both direct and indirect, private and public.

Benefits of basic education in poverty reduction and realisation of regional equality

According to Vinson (2009, p.8), social inclusion reflects a proactive ‘human development approach’ to social wellbeing that calls for more than the elimination of obstacle and risks and added that it requires investments and action to obtain conditions for inclusion. This can be advocated and promoted through the benefits of education as follows.

Improved health

Brempong (2010) reported that several authors such as Silles, (2008), Gilleskie and Harrison, (1999), Glick (2009), Cutler, (2006), Kabubo-Mariara, (2009) and Gyimah-Brempong and Wilson, (2004) among others, found that education tends to have positive effects on health outcomes. He contends that, lower levels of education have stronger impacts on preventive health than tertiary education[5]. He asserted that educated people are less likely to be misinformed about HIV/AIDS, and are able to choose better health inputs which in turn increase their health outcomes compared to those with lower levels of education (Brempong 2010). Simon (1999), expressed similar view.

HCT argues that education promotes good health which in turn lowers infant mortality (Appiah and McMahon, 2010). Educating young girls on hygiene and nutrition imparts skills needed for motherhood resulting in proper care for their children hence reducing infant mortality rate (Appiah and McMahon 2010).Uganda has very high infant mortality rates of 54 deaths per 1000 life (UBoS 2011). A report from Ssewanyan (2009, p.17) indicates that child mortality is higher for household living in ‘chronic poverty’ and that the high mortality is associated with ‘high fertility’. Fertility rates reduce at all levels of girl’s education hence this influence the family size (Appiah and McMahon, 2010). ‘Household reduction especially of children is important for getting out of poverty’ (Ssewanyana 2009, p.11). Brempong (2010) indicated that the number of childbearing years is diminished as females stay in school longer; this effect is reinforced by family planning efforts. Thus, education creates economic incentives for women to have fewer children so they can enter urban labor markets earlier and stay in them longer hence reduce poverty. In this case the ROR to education would be highest in the rural areas particularly to the women where poor health practices are observed (Manda et al, 2002).Unequal access to basic education leads to limited knowledge on birth control hence high population growth which affects economic growth. Infant mortality rate is both human rights and economic issue. Article 29 of the CRC calls for countries to provide the highest attainable level of health care and Uganda being a State party must fulfill its obligation, Infant mortality rate is a reflection on how child rights are met in fundamental areas such as nutrition, clean water, sanitation and availability of preventive health services.

ROR of education at primary level.

Although research has consistently indicated that there are higher benefits of primary education, its distribution in Uganda remains uneven. For example, the labor market returns to education are highest at the primary level, secondly 1 year of schooling adds up to 10% of a person’s wage (Psacharopoulos, 1972; Psacharopoulos and Patrinos, 2004).This was confirmed to be true by (Appleton 2001;Ssewanyana et al (2007) in Uganda[6].Thirdly, rate of return is up to 29% in developing countries (Mandda, et al, 2002; Psacharopoulos, 1972) and lastly, the rates of return to basic education is high in Africa than other region in the world (Colclough et al,2009).These findings reinforce the argument for basic education in Northern Uganda particularly among the pastoralist communities because of the fact that benefit of basic education is attained in a shorter time, that is, at a minimum of 1 year. Unequal access to basic education denies the population of Northern Uganda from all the benefits associated with ROR hence fostering chronic poverty and wider inequality. It should also be noted that Uganda has 11.5% proportion of the labor force unemployed[7].Proper educational planning is an absolute pre-requisite if the rates of return to education are to be optimally achieved (Haddad and Demsky, 1995; Kaufman, Herman and Walters, 2002; Mutua and Namaswa, 1988). Whereas income returns to education are important in determining the level of poverty, they are not at the centre of standards of living and do not address important poverty-oriented questions like how income is shared between income earners and dependents ( Rolleston, 2009,p.11) and therefore alternative mechanisms which centre on per capita household ‘consumption’ or ‘economic welfare’ may be considered a more appropriate tool for the measurement of poverty and consumption ,mostly the World Bank’s approach.[8]

Increased productivity of existing labor force and economic growth.

According to Odit, Dookhan, Fauzel (2010), the education of children in developing countries is crucial for future economic growth and lasting democracy, thereby leading to a greater stability and improved standards of living. World Bank (2012b, p.26) asserts that, education attainment is the ‘strongest predictor’ of success in Uganda and that raising educational attainment, particularly in lagging regions, is pivotal to reducing poverty and narrowing regional inequalities. Woodhall, (1973) and Schultz, (1995) have argued that human capital and economic growth are inseparable and one contributes to the other. HCT argues that, the more one learns the more productive one can be and over a life time individual should accumulate human capital (Belfield 2000). Psacharopoulos (1972), Manda, et al (2002), reported that educated people earn more than uneducated people. The regional inequality is majorly blamed on the regional variation in educational attainment leading to poverty (World Bank 2012a, p.46). Therefore the GoU should reconsider investing in primary education in Northern Uganda so as to increase the productivity of labor force hence increasing their chances of acquiring good employment opportunities so as to realise optimum ROR in Northern Region and reduce poverty and regional inequality; this will pave way for economic growth in the long run as Odit et al, 2010 report to sustained growth is due to the accumulation of human capital over time.Appiah and McMahon (2010) reported that long term effects of education result in economic development and growth and that more highly educated parents are like to have children with greater levels of schooling with higher human capital and socio-economic mobility. However, Belfield (2000) urged that Human Capital accumulation depends on ability, duration in school and education achievement, therefore unless the pastoralists are willing to put more efforts, ability and time in school, government efforts may be in vain. Lastly is the opportunity cost of education, due to EFA, education is free, however there are costs attached to education in Uganda. The money which the population of Northern Uganda has got has many alternative usages due to high poverty level hence education becomes an opportunity cost. Nevertheless, the role of education in poverty reduction cannot be disputed and therefore calls for the GoU to ensure equal access to education and embark on education reform to suit the needs and context of Northern Uganda.[9]. (ADB/UNESCO-IIEP 2005; World Bank 2012a, p.56). Pogge, (2007, p.56), argued that severe poverty and inequality are ‘ a human rights violation’ and consequently, he advocated for ‘structural reform model’, as a remedy, explaining that it would be more successful than ‘individual moral efforts’ (p.27).

Improvement in basic education leads to diversification of economy.

It is estimated that North Eastern Uganda has approximately 1,100,000 cattle and 2,070,000 sheep and goats (Powell 2010).Government needs to more strongly invest in basic education for its diversification policy to succeed. According to (Canagarajah and Coulombe, 1997; Dreze and Kingdon, 2001; Filmer and Pritchett, 1999), welfare level of any household determines enrollment, retention and completion of the school cycle. Evidence from the UNHS 2005/06 shows that agricultural households with other sources of income report higher income from agriculture on average. Jolliffe (2004) argues that much of the value from increasing the educational attainment of farm households is found in its impact on off-farm activities. Evidence[10] has it that, the earnings of a HE operated by a person with complete primary education are 46% higher than the average earnings of similar HEs run by entrepreneurs without any formal education. Thus expanding basic education benefits household entrepreneurs by boosting agriculture due to acquisition of appropriate skills to manage tools, crops and livestock. Unequal access to basic education will not support this vital course.

Improved Agricultural productivity and development of new technology.

The UNHS 2005/6 poverty headcount among households exclusively depending on family farming income indicates that poverty reduced among households engaged only in agriculture from 64% in 1992/3 to 33% in 2005/6.This suggest that gains in agriculture played a significant role in poverty reduction . This could only be achieved if agriculture labor productivity increased over the past two decades due to basic education. Data from Kenya reveals that the ROR is higher in rural areas than urban and that increased farm productivity due to basic education provides an important source of income for rural workers (Appiah et al ,2010;Manda et al, 2002;McMahon, 1987). According to Odit,et al (2010) the more educated the workforce is, the better it is able to implement technological advances and that adapting to new technology leads to technological progress and that the primary avenue for technical progress is the adaptation of pre-existing products and production methods to local economies (See annex 3 & 4). Promotion of agriculture in the semi arid region of North Eastern Uganda may come with introduction of irrigation and indexed insurance schemes which can help farmers manage climatic risks, those schemes need to be accompanied by ‘preventive measures that are based on new technologies’ (World Bank 2012a, p.39). Externalities of new technology may include accumulation of household assets and investments in infrastructure and above all is the adoption behavior of those without schooling and productive practices of educated ( Odit, et al 2010) (See Annex. 6).According to Sen, polices intended to boost education among the disadvantaged have a propensity to reduce inequalities and poverty by humanising the standards of living (Colclough et al, 2009).

Women’s participation in Politics.

Education has significant and positive effects on the participation of women in politics in African countries. This is because education allows people to accept new ideas, the notion that human capital resources (including leadership resources) should be allocated to maximize social efficiency, as well as break down traditional barriers. This makes it possible for educated societies to accept the leadership role for women and for them to demand recognition in their societies. Both basic and tertiary education has been found to have significant effect on women in parliament (Brempong, 2010).

Education helps to reduce conflicts.

Education decreases the probability and intensity of conflict in Africa (Brempong, 2010). Some researchers argue that education reduces the potential for ethnic conflict because of the inter-ethnic friendship developed by political leaders during school days. It is evident too that investment in education has a high social priority in developing countries that are still in great need of skilled manpower (Colclough,et al 2009; Manda,et al 2002b).Northern Uganda is emerging from decades of conflict and periodic cattle rustling among the major pastoralist communities (Ssewanyana, et al, 2007; ADB/UNESCO-IIEP, 2005). According to (Appiah and McMahon, 2010), educated people are more peaceful and they promote peace and accord, this means unequal access to education would increase likelihood of conflict. Prolonged instability and lawlessness have severely affected the social and individual returns to education in Northern Uganda. Collier (2007) asserts that economic development can easily be destroyed by fighting a civil war.


Realist has it that inequality is inevitable and acts as a motivation for innovation to generate wealth hence creating change and that it reflects the natural selection of human (Kline, 2007, p.2-3).They stressed that, individuals have different behavior and ‘rewards are only given to those with exceptional meritorious behaviors. Since desert can be highly unequal, so can the rewards hence inequality (Parijs, 1995; Kline, 2007). The primary purpose of government is the preservation of humankind and the protection of property rights and that the right to accumulate property inevitably comes with economic inequality (Kline (2007, p.2). The fact that ‘entitlements are acquired through voluntary purchase’, it creates difficulty in controlling the outcome of these voluntary transactions whether equal or in equal (Parijs, 1995 P.2).

The distribution of benefits to achieve justice is viewed as ‘means’ for maximizing some aggregative index. Since principle of justice requires the benefits to be allocated so as to boost aggregate performance, they can be induced to achieve, hence this leads to inequalities (Parijs, 1995, P.2). Overall HCT argues that education leads to accumulation of wealth hence increasing utility, but, this does not mean equality.

Human Rights approach nullifies the argument of HCT and advocates for equitable distribution of growth of which EFA is one of the best ways of redistributing growth to fulfill capability sets.

According to Sen (1999, p.18), the main purpose of development is to achieve ‘freedom for the un-free’ hence development becomes free which are driven by basic education. He calls for building capabilities, removal of obstacles to freedom and advocated for public debate so as to enable people make decision and take opportunities that result in valuable outcomes. Sen (1999, p.20) asserted that, poverty is a deprivation of ‘basic capabilities rather than just low income’ and that freedom is a principal ‘determinant of individual initiatives and social effectiveness’. Pogge’s central argument is the construction and reform of social institutions, however Swift (2001, p.17) argued that, it matters how people ‘live their lives within the social institutions’ implying freedom and democracy are key to development.[11]

Access to educationin a conflict and chronic poverty situation: what is the implication on Child rights? Human Rights analysis

From the above, Human rights envisage poverty in a wider dimension ranging from low income, lost of dignity and respect and other forms of deprivation. Human rights approach necessitates a shift from needs to social and legal entitlements, from charity to duty and invites analysis of the structural causes of poverty and not only its symptoms and impact of ‘government action or inaction’ on population experiencing poverty (Donald and Mottershaw 2009,p.5).

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized (UDHR: article 22 and 28).Pogge, 2009, p.11).

Education is a basic human right (Monteiro,2010).These rights are enshrined in the UDHR.For example, Article 26, 1 of the UDHR states that, “Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory”[12].Among the many rights embedded in the UDHR emerged the Convention on the Right of a Child (CRC ), Article 28 states that:

“States Parties recognize the right of the child to education and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity, they shall, in particular: Make primary education compulsory and available free to all. Take measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and the reduction of drop-out rates.”

The rights to education was further emphasised on by the MDGs.For example, Universal access to and completion of primary education is a goal in both Jomtien and Dakar EFA. The Dakar EFA contains the Goal of ‘free primary education of good quality and stresses the needs of ‘girls, children in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities’ (Little 2003, p.17). The responsibilities for the realisation of these rights lie with each Country who ratifies the treaty. In Africa, the rights to education are enshrined in African Charter Article 11. Uganda enshrined the rights in its constitution hence has an obligation to provide basic education Northern Uganda. Both poverty reduction and the achievement of Education for All come out prominently among the Millennium Development Goals (Rolleston, 2009, p.11) and they are both rooted partly in the neo-classical human capital theory (Schultz, 1961; Becker, 1964). Links between education and poverty are often cited in the policy literature and not least in Uganda-MoES 2012).The UN Millennium Declaration of 2000 obligates states “to halve, by the year 2015, the proportion of the world’s people whose income is less than one dollar a day and the proportion of people who suffer from hunger” (Pogge, 2007, P.21-online).However, many developing countries including Uganda are run by corrupt and sometimes incompetent leaders, unwilling to make serious poverty-eradication efforts, hence leading to sustaining poverty (Pogge,2007,p.56), unfortunately their ability to rule against the will of the population undermines the achievements of the MDGs.

Pogge (2007,p.56) asserts that poverty is a violation of human rights and that human rights would be fully realised if all human beings had secure access to the objects of these Rights which education is one. That said from the supply side, factors of schooling must be available, accessible, adoptable and acceptable for effective learning of the children of Northern Uganda (Tomaševski, 2001). However, most schools in Northern Uganda fall short of these requirements. (MoES, 2008).Evidence has it that Northern Uganda has been neglected intentionally. Since colonial times Karamoja was perceived to be inhabited by warrior-like people who have destabilized neighboring communities hence ignored and marginalised (Iriama 2010).Museveni has been quoted to have said “once again, a minority, unpopular clique was imposed on the people of Uganda, leaving them with no option but to take up arms in defense of their democratic rights” (Leefers 2004.p, 5), hence the root of neglect is both political and historical. Rawls (1993: 77 in Pogge, 2007, p.31) noted that ‘social evils’ in terms of oppressive government and corrupt elites may limit the availability of public services and suggests a change in harmful institutions that impede such a fair distribution.

Conflict and chronic poverty often lead to poor health hence reducing capabilities of children to access school. According to (MoES ,2009), 3.3% of children in Northern Region were disabled as compared to 1.8% and 1.9% in the West and Central Regions respectively. The causal factors were poor health and hygiene services in the region. Health factors are important determinants of when a child goes to school and it a rights enshrined in Article 29 of the CRC. Lack of health services reduces families into abject poverty and it is a human rights violation resulting into perpetuation of poverty (Pogge, 2007, p.59). In their study of exclusion from access in Ghanaian schools, Akyeampong, Djangmah, Oduro, Seidu, Hunt, (2007, p.18), noted that, health status has implications for ‘attendance, absenteeism, retention and drop out’. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) Article 26 granted human being the right of education regardless, therefore the children of Northern Uganda should not be discriminated because of their location. Government must play its moral role to ensure that both health and education services are available and equitably distributed. According to Akyeampong et al, (2007, p.22), due to the education ‘social returns’, community should participate in the enforcement of access policies, management and delivery of education provisioning to sustain high enrolments. If people accept that basic education is a matter of ‘justice’ then each individual is responsible to contribute be it politically or cost sharing (Swift, 2001, p.20), thus the community of Northern Uganda must consider that access to basic education has become a mixture of both supply and demand. However, Pogge (2007, p.59) indicated that when people are concerned about survival like in this case of Northern Uganda, they are less likely to group together and hold their government accountable because of the reduced capabilities, moreover, they are often ‘despised, disrespected and discriminated’.

Denying access to education for Northern Ugandan children has negative impact including poor educational attainment, drug and alcohol usage, crime, unemployment, early pregnancy with origins in the deprived childhoods (Wilkinson, et al 2009, and p.2). Evidence has it that the economic returns from investing in early intervention programs are larger when ‘higher-risk populations are targeted’ (Schweinhart, 2005 cited in Vinson 2009, p.13). The economic and social benefits of early intervention have been summarized by Fish (2002).


Education is vital for any sustainable economic development of any country (Appiah 2010; Becker, 1964; Colclough,et al, 2009; MoES, 2012). S chool improvements yield very large gains (Hanushek and Woessmann,2011).More and higher quality schooling is associated with improved health, improved agricultural productivity and adoption of new technologies, improved security, increased women’ participation in politics, reduction in gender disparities, improved nutrition and lower fertility. Hence denying Northern Uganda access to education leads to social evils which affects people regardless (Wilkinson et al 2009). Expansion of basic education has positive consequences on expansion of public infrastructures and equitable access to quality social services are the sharpest instrument for integrating leading and lagging areas. Investment in education has got educational, social, political and economic returns, which reach the majority of the population leading to poverty reduction therefore increased access to education, should be poverty alleviating and income equalising among different sections of Ugandans. Policy makers need to address variety of challenges in reducing poverty and spurring inclusive growth through reform of education system. Expansion of basic education is a basic human right, failure to achieve equity and reduction in poverty is a violation of HRs and likely to exacerbate unemployment and lead to social unrest. In addition, expansion of basic education and increased participation should be viewed as moral efforts. Government should reconsider the fact that basic education and skills provisioning lead to poverty reduction and a more dynamic process in transforming economy and that ROR can be achieved within a short time. Finally, government must ensure that, policies intended to expand access and completion of basic education must include incentives that make basic education attractive. Quality of provision and meaningful access are solution to the proposition that basic education is fundamental for personal and social development irrespective of the location and welfare status of all in society. Human capital calls for the policy makers to critically develop drivers of growth which includes movement of factors of production in particular, labor, ideas, infrastructure, social amenities and products across locations (World Bank 2012a)


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Figure 3 shows that the education levels of labor force in Northern region are much lower that the education levels of the workforce in other regions. The average level of education in the Central urban region is nearly three years higher than the Northern urban areas and twice that of the rural North. For instant, at 8.2, the average years of education in urban areas among people aged at least 15 years is 78% higher than the average years of education (4.6 years) in rural areas.

Fig: 3. Average Years of Education of Labor Force, 2009/10.

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Source: World Bank 2012b. Note: Restricted to people aged 15 years and above.

Access to infrastructure and other services.

Regional variation in monetary poverty is reflected in the regional disparities in access and quality of services as shown in Fig.5. Up to 62% of households in Kampala have access to electricity. North and the East lag behind the Central region with only 1% and 2% of access to electricity respectively. Employment structure is skewed towards better employment opportunities in regions with better access to public infrastructure as a result employment opportunities are best in the Central region than elsewhere in the country.

Fig 5: Access to infrastructure and services.

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Source: World Bank 2012b.

Table 3: Proportion of Disabled Pupils by Region and Gender

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Source: EMIS data 2009.

Fig: 6. A feeder road in Lyantonde to support mobility of people and products.

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Source:World Bank 2012a

North Eastern Uganda-Karamoja region.

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Source: Rugadya (2010).

The Map of the republic of Uganda

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Source: Rugadya (2010


[1] MDG 1-Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, 2-Achieve universal primary education, 3-Promote gender equality and empower women.

[2] The pastoralist communities are often forgotten and marginalized by both the government and development partners resulting into under allocate of fund, poor quality of services and unwillingness of teacher and other service providers to take up opportunities in such areas due to claim of harsh weather, poor infrastructure and other services

[3] Today the three districts of Northern Uganda (Gulu, Kitgum and Pader) have been divided into many districts

[4] For the purpose of this paper, Northern Uganda region will consist of former Gulu, Kitgum and Pader districts and North East region-Karamoja

[5] This is because educated people have better information about health alternatives or they make better health decisions, given the alternatives available to them.

[6] Ssewanyana, Younger, Kasirye, (2007),report on household head educational attainment in Northern Uganda shows increase in consumption for different level of education. 8% some primary, 20% completed primary and 31% secondary. This proves that ROR is achievable at the lowest level of education. Appleton (2001) reported that, those with uneducated household heads mean consumption per adult equivalent grew by an average of 3.8% per annum. Those with primary completers as heads enjoyed 5.8% growth and those with secondary completers experienced 4.8% growth.

[7] The current labor force in Uganda is 11.5 million; an increment from 9.5 million in 2005/6 which is an annual growth rate of 4.7%.This is above the population growth rate of the Country 3.3 %( World Bank 2011).82% of these labor force are in rural areas.17% don’t have formal education and 53% are primary gradates. The annual growth rate for those with degree is 20 %.( UNSH 2011).Given this excess skilled work force in the labor market, a primary graduate in Uganda can never be shortlisted for any vacancy. Beside, job opportunities in rural areas are very limited given the fact that there are limited employment structures and other public infrastructures. Livingstone, (1997) research also indicates that “growing proportions of people who have invested many years of their lives in acquiring advanced formal educational qualifications are unable to obtain commensurate jobs”.

[8] World Bank defines extreme poverty as a consumption level below the equivalent of $1 a day and moderate poverty as a level below $2.

[9] The current educational participation simply reproduces marginalization of the pastoralist and the community of Northern Uganda. Reforms should focus on quality enhancements, teacher’ deployment, curriculum reviews, and better infrastructure.

[10] Based on (UNHS 1999/2000, 2005/2006, 2009/10)

[11] Full and meaningful access to basic education include regular attendance, progression at appropriate ages with limited repetition, acceptable levels of achievement, and more rather than less equitable opportunities to progress to higher educational levels. (Rolleston, 2009, p.22).

[12] UDHR is a foundation of the right to education. For example, the Jomtien declaration on Education For All 1990, The Vienna declaration and program for action 1993, the Beijing declaration and platform for action 1995, and the Dakar framework for action 2000 all rest their feet on UDHR.


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2016 (Februar)
Human Capital Theory inequality education Uganda poverty

Titel: Basic education, poverty reduction and the realisation of equality in Northern Uganda