Friday, July 17, 2015

Uganda Finally has a Science Ministry

By Esther Nakkazi

Uganda has finally established a ministry to spearhead and harmonise the development of science, technology and innovation (STI) in the country. But it is not independent. The new ministry is now called the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Sports.

On March 1st 2015 during a cabinet reshuffle by the President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. announced that the Science and Technology docket will be placed under the Ministry of Education and Sports, but some stakeholders criticised the decision, charging that it is misplaced, because this ministry is already too big and handles too many issues.

Before the announcement, Uganda remained the only country in East Africa without an independent, dedicated science ministry.

George William Byarugaba-Bazirake the dean, faculty of science at Kyambogo University, said scientists have had so many consultative meetings the Government and recommended that the Science ministry should be placed alone or under the Ministry of Information Communication and Technology (ICT).

Byarugaba-Bazirake said that the Science ministry will be swallowed up in the gigantic Education and Sports ministry and issues of science, technology and innovations would not be articulated properly and besides it might not be allocated enough resources.
UNCST building in Kampala ( By Esther Nakkazi)

However, Elizabeth Gabona, the director of higher, technical and vocational educational said that although such fears could be valid, they would be so only if they are not thought out through properly and if funds allocated to science are “borrowed” and used for different activities.

“Education and Sports is a big ministry, Science and Technology can be swallowed up and forgotten. These are real fears but they can be addressed if we make conscious transition plans to add value,” said Gabona.

The new ministry is now called the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Sports. Previously STI fell under the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, which paid them little attention. Other responsibilities were with the Ministry of ICT and the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology.

For long scientists and researchers in Uganda reasoned and begged for a Science ministry. The Uganda parliament passed a bill in June 2013 to pave way for its creation.

But some stakeholders say Education and Sports is still the best parent for a ministry for Science and Technology.

Uganda National Council of Science and Technology (UNCST) assistant executive secretary Ismail Barugahara said the ministry should be the home of the Science and Technology portfolio, since it reaches the grassroots through established structures.

“I believe Education and Sports has structures all the way from top to bottom that can effectively support science, technology and innovation,” Barugahara explained, adding: “Through the Ministry of Education Sports, Science and Technology, every community can be reached”.

John Opuda-Asibo, the executive director, Uganda National Council for Higher Education, supports Barugahara’s view stating: “When you ask for something and you get it, let it work. Let us see how this will work. I am glad that it has been placed in the Education ministry”.

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