Enhancing data use in districts and schools in Uganda (DHIS2-DEMIS)

By: Agrace Abesigamukama, Monica Amuha,Ronald Nyanzi Posted: 25 May 2023
Health Information Systems Program Uganda/ Miss Shivan Asimire
Credit: Health Information Systems Program Uganda/ Miss Shivan Asimire

Data is essential for evidence-based planning and decision-making. In the education sector, traditional Education Management Information Systems (EMIS) tend to move data from schools up to national and global levels, with limited opportunity for use in solving problems at lower levels such as schools and districts. Data systems also do not typically produce comprehensive reports detailing what is specifically happening in schools. This means that major efficiency and equity issues are often missed.

Uganda’s Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES), Basic Education Department in collaboration with HISP Uganda and Save the Children Uganda have been working to address this challenge through a decentralized education management information (DEMIS) system called DHIS2. The DHIS2-DEMIS project began in June 2019 with support from Norad and is currently being expanded with support from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (KIX), a joint endeavour with Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

Routine data collection and use at the lower levels has been improved by the implementation of the integrated termly tool in the DHIS2-DEMIS that allows for comprehensive analysis of indicators on enrolment, infrastructure, human resources, and school feeding, as well as programme-specific indicators on gender equality and learners with special needs and orphaned children (OVC). The use of the collected data has been enhanced with continuous capacity building workshops on data analysis and use, support supervisions and provision of end user videos for the districts and schools. These aid on-the-job access to refreshers on both data entry and analysis and, due to high staff turnover at the districts, these videos will also support the orientation of new staff, volunteers and interns attached to the district education department.

The routine capture and analysis of data collected on the integrated termly tool has improved data visibility on performance of key indicators and enhanced data use at both district and school levels.

Some of the data use examples highlighted by the districts included

  1. Indicative enrolment numbers for 2023/2024 budgeting: Enrolment figures captured in DHIS2-DEMIS informed budgeting for allocation of capitation grants to government schools. Figures from the DHIS2-DEMIS were submitted for the budgeting process in Gulu city, Gulu District Local Government (DLG) and Entebbe Municipality.
  2. School mapping to support partner activities for school re-entry through Accelerated Education: Using the Maps App in DEMIS, one of the implementing sites was able to provide data to partner organizations to support educational programs in the district. Data on schools with the highest level of learner dropout in each parish/division was presented on a map and used by education partners to inform the re-enrolment of school drop-outs into the Accelerated Education program. The mapping of schools to the nearest water source also identified gaps in water supply to inform the provision of boreholes.
  3. Informing primary teacher transfers: The teacher-pupil ratio informed the transfer of teachers within the districts. The data on teaching staff captured in the system has enabled the identification of schools with limited teaching staff and facilitated the re-allocation of staff within Gulu city and Gulu DLG.
  4. Community sensitization and radio talk shows: Absenteeism and various other factors such as disciplinary issues, re-location, forced marriages, disability and lack of school fees are part of the early warning indicators for school dropout. Visualizing these indicators on the dashboards has enabled districts and schools to design immediate interventions and solicit partner support to minimize school dropout rates. For example, the education office in Gulu city, with support from partners, is holding radio talk shows and podcasts to sensitize the community on the importance of keeping children and adolescents in school.
  5. Improved local government performance: Every financial year, national assessments are conducted to assess performance of all local governments, municipalities and cities in sectors like health, education, and agriculture. The Gulu city team reported that they registered a 94% score for the education department due to improved data management practices using DHIS2-DEMIS. The site boasts of having become a model district for learning and benchmarking by other districts through the local government exchange learning/benchmarking program. The project will build on this best practice to establish regional districts of excellence (DoE).
  6. Informing school health interventions like the provision of mosquito nets and planning for immunization: In response to the fight against malaria in school-going children, the district education teams have been able to use enrolment numbers to inform the distribution of mosquito nets for learners. Enrolment numbers from the Early Childhood Development centres also provided indicative numbers for learners below 6 years to inform the polio immunization campaign. This has continued to strengthen the cross-sectoral collaboration between the education and health departments at the district level.
  7. Providing data for scientific research to local universities: Data from the system has been utilized by two masters’ students from Gulu University and one from Makerere University for their independent academic research. One of the studies focused on understanding the relationship between school performance, school feeding and absenteeism. Data on performance of key education indicators highlights educational challenges in the district and has provided areas of interest for research by some interns and upgrading officers.

A district scorecard was also developed to allow for visualizing performance on specific indicators against national standards. The scorecard has eased the sharing of data between different stakeholders such as government departments, schools, and partners, who are then able to focus resources on underperforming indicators.

To improve data dissemination and use at the school level, the KIX project consortium partner, Save the Children Uganda, has been working closely with the district local government to design school status reports for disseminating information collected on the termly tool to the school administrators. This is crucial, as it ensures that schools receive feedback on the data that they collected, which is still a major gap in the education sector.

Schools used information from school status reports to inform school improvement plans to address challenges of high absenteeism rates for both teachers and learners, school dropout, teenage pregnancy/teenage mothers, to identify support needed for learners with special needs, and to lobby for additional resources. For example, data on the number of teenage pregnancies and teenage mothers was used to sensitize parents on the dangers of teenage pregnancy and child marriages, and to plan guidance and counselling sessions for learners. At Angaya primary school, the headteacher shared that she used the data from the status report to mobilize parents and sensitize them on the importance of school feeding programs.

To facilitate data analysis and use at the Ministry level, different departmental dashboards were configured into DHIS2-DEMIS to allow central-level visualization of indicators on learner enrolment, special needs learners, water and sanitisation hygiene, infrastructure, gender-related issues etc. by each department.

At the national level, Primary-leaving examination results from the National Examination Board were imported into the DHIS2-DEMIS to allow more detailed analysis beyond the district pass rate and performance index. Additional indicators captured include school level performance by division, subject, and gender. This enables districts to support schools in designing holistic improvement plans to address specific performance issues. Overall, the availability of up-to-date routine and comprehensive data on key indicators has eased planning and empowered districts and schools to utilize data to address their specific needs and challenges.

Lessons Learned to inform the global education community

  • Harmonization of different data needs in a standardized integrated tool reduces duplication and improves utilization of limited resources. This also minimizes the data collection burden at lower levels by reducing the need for ad hoc data calls. Education data still remains fragmented with the deployment of multiple data collection tools and systems without being integrated or aligned in one system for comprehensive analysis or data sharing.
  • Data dissemination and feedback to those who collect data is crucial in improving data quality and use. Feedback provides an opportunity to review the data submitted, highlight the gaps and design mechanisms to improve or address the challenges.
  • Capacity building of district staff is key in improving data use. The ability of districts to collect, analyze and share data with stakeholders has demonstrated the crucial role of district education officers and school inspectors in improving education service delivery through evidence-based planning and resource allocation and supporting schools in utilization of their data.
  • The decentralization of data collection, entry and analysis improves visibility, quality and ownership of data at the district level. The districts who are the closest to the schools can more easily verify or follow up on any data quality issues, compared to the national teams.

To learn more about the DHIS2 for Education implementation in Uganda you can check out the  DHIS2 for Education website or email info@hispuganda.org