Members of Parliament have demanded the Ministry of Education and Sports promotes equitable distribution of student scholarships.
According to MPs, many scholarships are awarded to students from particular parts of the country, which they attribute to decisions taken by the Central Scholarship Committee under the Ministry.The legislators demanded that the minister for Education should work on that issue with immediate effect.
Bugiri Municipality MP, Hon. Asuman Basalirwa said Section 42 of the Higher Education Students Financing Act, 2014 gives singular authority to the Higher Education Students Financing Board to award all scholarships. “The Central Scholarship Committee existing immediately before the commencement of this Act shall cease to exist on such a date as the Minister may by statutory instrument publish in the gazette,” reads section 42 (2) of the Act.
Basalirwa said the Ministry could be challenged in the future if the Board remained sidelined, adding that, ‘the Minister should tell us when they will issue a statutory instrument in the gazette to formally cease the functions of the Central Scholarship Committee’.
Kween District Woman MP, Hon. Lydia Chekwel called for dissolving of the Committee citing irregularities in choice of students to take up scholarship opportunities.
“The Students Financing Board is doing good work by giving us names of all those that apply, where you can witness that every district that has students who applied for a scholarship, is considered,” said Chekwel.
The MPs’ concerns followed presentation of a statement on scholarship opportunities by State Minister for Sports, Hon. Hamson Obua.
The Minister told the House on Thursday, 19 March 2020 that the Central Scholarship Committee was currently managing all scholarships offered through the Ministry of Education and Sports.
He also said that the Committee was responsible for short listing, interviewing and nominating candidates for recommendation to the awarding foreign Governments and Agencies.
“The procedure and or criteria of giving out the scholarship opportunities includes selection of courses guided by NDP priorities, running adverts in print media and on the Ministry website, receiving and compiling all applications and convening of the Central Scholarship Committee to do short listing,” said Obua.
The students listed attend universities in Algeria, Cuba, Egypt, India, China and the United Kingdom.
MPs were concerned about the mode of information dissemination of available opportunities, saying it did not favour many youths in rural areas who may not have access to newspapers or the internet.
“What is difficult with giving information to us MPs, either by mail or in our pigeon holes so that we can use our connections to give information to potential beneficiaries. We need regional balance,” said Hon. Lowila CD Oketayot (NRM, Pader District)
Hon. Margaret Baba Diri (NRM, Koboko District) called for an investigation of the Committee questioning its award procedures saying,“Why do they give scholarships to only people of their choice yet these scholarships are for all Ugandan children to benefit from”.
According to the Ministry of Education and Sports, Uganda receives various scholarships through schemes from different countries including awards through multilateral cooperation, bilateral cooperation and direct offers to individuals through embassies of awarding Governments and one-offs in other Government Ministries, Universities and agencies.