The East African Community, or EAC, has slashed its budget for harmonising education systems and curricula in the five member countries in the coming fiscal year, further slowing a process that has nearly flopped due to financial constraints.
Budgetary estimates produced by the EAC secretariat, the executive arm of the trade bloc, earlier this month showed that the Inter-University Council for East Africa, or IUCEA, will receive US$9.6 million – just down from the current year’s $10 million.
The IUCEA is the regional body charged by the five countries with harmonising their education systems.
According to the documents, of the US$9.6 million, $5.6 million is expected to come from donors, while the balance will be contributions from the partner states: Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
Educationists and managers at IUCEA had hoped that the body would get a big financial boost to unlock the harmonisation process, which has also been hampered by conflicting nationalist interests among the five EAC countries.
The budget estimates show that at least 40% of the $4 million that member states were supposed to contribute to IUCEA in the current fiscal year is yet to come through: US1.7 millions.
Since 2011 the regional bloc has considered harmonising its education systems and training curricula in the fields of education, science and technology, and culture, sports and youth affairs, but the dream is still being hampered by structural and financial constraints.
Last year, the EAC approved the key Inter University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) Bill 2012, seeking to harmonise and standardise university education systems.
s in the bill since its first version was released in 2009.
Educationists said the focus was now on whether countries would obey the law, which will usher in major changes to the way higher education in the region is run. It is not clear when the bill will be effective, since no date has been given.
Among other things, the bill allows university students to move freely across the bloc’s institutions via a credit accumulation and transfer arrangement.
This means, for example, a Kenyan student will be able to enrol at the University of Nairobi but graduate at Uganda’s Makerere University without having to lose study years or course credits. It is currently impossible to do this.
The governments of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda fostered the establishment of the present-day IUCEA in 1980, with the objectives of facilitating contact between universities in East Africa, providing a forum for discussion on a range of academic and other matters relating to higher education, and helping maintain high and comparable academic standards.
But the system could increase the cost pressures on universities, as more expensive institutions may ultimately find themselves with fewer students as students opt for cheaper alternatives in one of the other five member countries.