Occasional chats with investors in education in Uganda, led my colleague Rachel Namutebi (a teacher by profession) and I to create a good governance manual in July 2011, that expanded the scope of administration of schools from a human resource manual to a good governance manual that also included updates in human resource management. Some of it’s contents are in line with leadership and behavioural management, terms and conditions of employment, professional conduct and standards, other policies and procedures and the appendices include aspects on corporate social responsibility, capacity building, staff motivation and retention and others. And to seamlessly incorporate the manual, we also offer training sessions as an on-going support system and honour specialised requests for legal work that is done separately from the governance quotient.
The initial receipt of the manual by the first purchasers alerted us to the fact that we were in an area that had not received as much coverage as the teachers’ strikes for more pay, school fires and all the other negative positions that seem to have our primary and secondary education sectors in a stronghold. The purchasers, enthusiasm led us to visit some more schools and at the publishing of this article, we have so far visited 20 schools to market the manual. Special thanks go to the Headmasters, Headmistresses and Directors who passed by our office at Ruth Towers to have a look at the blueprint.
The schools that gave us a good reception and some even went ahead to purchase the manual, ask for specialised work in line with capacity building, Board matters and teacher motivation and retention included my old Alma Mata Kings’ College Budo, City Parents School, Trinity College Nabbingo, Bunga primary School, Ndejje Senior School, Kitante Hill School, St. Lawrence- Horizon Campus, Aga Khan Education Service Uganda.
The poor receptions caught us off guard as we had expected a simple ‘ we will not be able to purchase your manual …(for whatever reason)’. For example; there was the headmaster at a school in Namugongo, with whom we had an appointment who on receiving the mandatory slip announcing our arrival, locked himself in his office until we left 30 minutes later. And the school along Gayaza road where the Headmistress was too busy to cancel our appointment and allocated us to the head of IT (information technology), whose brash words belittling our manual in favour of their strategic plan had us scampering for safety back to the confines of Ruth Towers. But the worst had to be an excursion into the depths of Nateete, through deeply eroded roads, where i worried that my car’s crank shaft might break, only to get to our appointment and the headmistress was not on the school premises and her mobile phone was off. On looking at the makeshift dustbin (a rusted wheel barrow with a hole in it) at the school gate, the clapboard classes and overgrown grass, we decided that the manual might be too expensive for the school at that time. As we were undeterred in our venture, we gave the headmistress a call two weeks later and invited her to Ruth towers whenever she was in Kampala to have a look at our product and her reply was we must make the journey back to her school as we were the ones selling (groundnuts anyone?!).
However, the poor reception had us agreeing that visiting each and every school in person was only to be achieved as a five year plan; and even then, the Ministry of Education and Sports would have registered more schools in line with the growing population and universal primary and secondary education. In getting the manual to the schools (private, government, bank balances in red or black), for monitoring and review, the ministry would do a better job than our ‘visit 1 school a week’ campaign.
3/4 of the schools we visited had some form of construction going on. The tight rope in paying Value Added Tax (VAT) on construction is a noose round the necks of some of the schools we visited. The rationale being that Schools are exempt from VAT but have to pay VAT on purchase of construction materials, labour and to the contractors and they can not claim it as they are not registered for VAT.