A huge percentage of those who will read this blog are people who were lucky enough to be selected to go to the schools, they applied to and if they weren’t too keen on going to government schools that required to get selected, they had the financial means to afford a private school.
For some 81,000 pupils who sat Primary Leaving Examinations, the future is unknown, for some that will be the end of the Education route for them. Why? They were ungraded or government’s subtle way of saying they are the lot that constitutes the failure statistics. Four years from now when the over, 500,000 pupils who made it to secondary sit for S.4, we will lose almost 40,000 students to Education oblivion if this year’s Uganda Certificate of Education results is anything to go by.
If you resort to cumulative math to see the picture of how many children just disappear in the Education system, the figures are astounding. But year in, year out, we sing the praises of those who pass and bother not with those who need the national attention more.
In an interview with education expert and Secretary General of Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU), James Tweheyo decried the lack of government interventions to track the “lost system children”. According to Tweheyo, it’s really up to the parents to send these children back to school, and since most of these “lost system children” are from rural areas, for most failure is usually end of the road, with these children picking up manual jobs like selling bananas on Kampala streets, working as house helps in our homes, shamba boys, boda-boda cyclists and some fall into the trap of early marriages as one of their next best options.
At the recent release of the 2016 UCE exams results from Uganda National Examinations Board Executive Secretary Dan Nokrach, observed the high failure rates of 13.2%, saying it was a cause for worry. He outlined a couple of challenges that are contributors to the failure rates, but the biggest issue, he said, was teachers deserting teaching and instead of preparing children to cram for examinations.
Some students, he added seemed under prepared and weren’t able to interpret questions adequately. Of course, these problems were more rampant in the Universal Primary and Secondary schools which are mainly in rural areas and cater for the majorly poor Ugandans.
Dr. Muyingo Chrystosom the Minister of state for Education, also explained that the problem was teachers were spreading themselves thin, neglecting their government appointed schools and instead focusing most of their time part timing in Private schools. A practice, his counterpart Rose Mary Sseninde warns will get teachers struck off the payroll.
A few teachers I spoke, who agreed to be interviewed on the condition of anonymity, pointed the finger back at the government. The teachers all unanimously agreed on remuneration in the education is still lacking, and even with the arguments that there have been increments, they argue it’s not enough especially if you have a family of your own to cater for and children to educate. And since gov’t seemingly has it’s ‘hands tied’, the teachers say they then opt to make more time for private schools that will take them. And of course, it’s no guess who suffers as a consequence of this neglect.
The teachers also point out that UPE schools have a student’s ratio that is alarming giving an example of Kotido where the ratio is 1:92, there is no time to dedicate to every and work on their weak areas as is done in private schools. This coupled with government’s policy to let every child be promoted to the next class despite their various inadequacies is what the teachers say is manifested in the high failure rates at PLE and UCE.
But for me, that is not the issue, as government points fingers at the teachers , and frustrated teachers neglect their role to earn a living elsewhere , we are churning out more children on the streets, who hawk bananas that people in their air conditioned cars won’t buy, and soon enough they become pickpockets .
For others, they will become house help who get horrible pay and before you know it they are mistreating the children they take care of. There needs to be investment beyond UPE and USE, investment in ensuring that those forced out of the system because the government and responsible stakeholders don’t care enough are tracked, put back in school. In any case, it’s the people’s taxes catering for these children and as such, our taxes in the least need to be put to good use.
Photos By Badru Katumba, Freelance Photographer