As I stated in my last blog, "Less is more," I wanted to begin to talk about NGOs', especially international organizations, ability to take over the government's abilty and desire to provide public goods like education for their citizens. In my research and field experience, I understand mostly how this affects East Africa. I would argue that this is most evident in Africa due to its long colonial history, consistent dependency on the "developed world" after countless development projects.
A public good is a good or service that can be consumed without reducing the amount of availability for others and are supposed to be provided by the government. Yet most goods are not perfect public goods. Education and health care are major examples used as goods that the government are responsible for providing whether people pay taxes or not. Yet education is not seen as a perfect public good even in America or abroad. For example, in America, at this point in history, higher education is a private good considering if you do not pay, you cannot attend. Or in most East African schools, if you do not pay for your uniform or books, you cannot attend.
Structural adjustment was introduced to Uganda in the 1980s and eventually led to the Universal Primary Education (1997) where every family was able to send up to four children to school for free (this excludes the price of books and uniforms). The international intervention has had mixed reviews locally and from scholar perspectives. If education is free, why do you need so many NGOs? If you have traveled abroad or talked to international students in your area, they will often tell you that they chose private education because their government schools were not good enough. Even after Universal Primary Education, many young children are sent off to boarding school in primary school so they can get a great education. And often these schools are internationnally started, follow Western models of learning, and many of the children are funded by NGOs.
After reading a document from Pherrys Kabanda at a National NGO Forum, he supports my conclusions that currently NGOs often replace agendas and are heavily involved in public good distribution. He positively states that NGOs are involved in:
- Policy formulation
- Agenda setting
- Service Delivering
But who knows if NGOs are even knowledgeable enough to provide these things or if they should be able to provide these things? Then what is the government's role? Most NGOs in Uganda are foreign created, funded, and not always that willing to share data and ideas with the government and the people. This is not to say that NGOs are not able create positive change in education and health care but to say that the government should not be "off the hook" if NGOs are present. I would argue that NGOs and international organizations should support and empower the changes in a country with a fertility rates that are threw the roof (6.24), but not create such a dependency on a Western agenda for social change.
This video ties in the topics from this blog and my last blog. Dr. Makumbi agrees that international organizations are not working alongside the Ugandan government or even sharing data with them to eliminate social problems. Also, by 2006, there were over 6,000 NGOs just for HIV/AIDS yet most of them are not doing their jobs properly and not enough of them were addressing the problems associated with Tuberculosis and Malaria: the top killers in Uganda.
Food for thought: What are some ways to improve relations between NGOs and the government? How much power should the government have over NGO work?