Employers prefer to recruit expatriates, especially Kenyans whom they say have good work ethic and are professional. Everyone wants someone who can do the job, Not qualifications but skills. These qualities are said to be lacking in Uganda’s employees.
We explore the cause for the reducing standards. SchoolsEdge magazine met with Mrs. Jane Semugoma to discuss the state of education and whether students are spoilt in school or at home. Below are the excerpts.
What is your take on the state of education in Uganda?
Uganda has taken a big step forward following the introduction of Universal Primary Education in January 1997.
Statistics reveal that enrolment of pupils under the UPE program has shot up drastically.
Enrolment rose from 3.1m pupils in 1996/97 to 5.3m in 1997/98. It shot up to 7.5m pupils in 2007/8.
However, there is a lot that is still wanting. Some government aided schools have not been fully supported. They don’t have enough staff.
Unlike other schools, here at Kitante Primary School the story is different. All our staff are trained. It is not that all private schools have such qualified teaching staff. Some are struggling just like the case in some government aided schools.
The examinations results show a bigger picture. This is why kids of the rich are passing. It is not tha these schools do cheat exams. It is because the facilitation and traning is good.
Like the common saying “a dog eats from where it sleeps.” This is not the case for some government aided schools.
A visit to some of the upcountry schools tells it all.
One headteacher of primary school whom this writer met in a dilapidated office explained that “our leaders have abandoned us. The only standing class block is now leaking while all the others were vacated. We are at a risk that this block may collapse any time.”
What are the challenges?
Uganda, like many sub-Saharan African countries, faces major challenges to build up its education system.
At the most fundamental level, Uganda has to provide enough places for one of the world’s fastest growing population. There are more Ugandans under the age of 18 compared to the adults and this puts the current resources at a state of emergency!
There are schools that conduct classes under tree shades. Once the weather changes, the pupils will have no class.
One head teacher of a primary school who preferred to remain anonymous noted, “The state of classroom blocks are in critical conditions. We have now advised parents not to send children to school again. We are afraid of having a similar incidence where pupils were buried with debris from the collapsing classroom block.”
Secondly, teachers’ salaries is still wanting. When teachers fail to get their salaries, or don’t earn enough, they take second or third jobs to pay the bills. And it means no-one is there to teach the children.
Despite many demonstrations by Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU), government hasn’t taken deliberate efforts to answer to their call. For any teacher to be productive, he has to be impressed first.
Do not expect exceptional results from teachers whose salaries can’t afford catering for most of their needs.
An old woman teacher in her early 40’s this writer spoke to said; “I have taught at this school for the last 15 years. I have not received any salary increment. Prices of commodities have gone high drastically. I am no longer able to sustain my family on this little salary.” A week to the opening of a new term, teachers have always threatened to strike due unpaid salaries.
In order to supplement on their salaries, teachers are now involved in full time trade activities. These are carried out at the expense of students.
This problem is worse in the rural schools where District Education supervisors do not regularly inspect schools.
It’s no wonder why poor performance is rated high among rural schools.
Over the years, the government of Uganda has come up with good policies to enhance the quality of education in the upcountry schools but these have all failed at implementation. Good policies on paper, poor implementation!
Many of the challenges facing schools are really about staffing. The challenge is cheap source of power for lighting. A visit to rural schools describes the need to have light.
At one of the earliest secondary schools in Munteme village Hoima District, darkness has covered the school for the last 40 years. A s.4 student can’t use a computer.
Teachers and students have mentioned the huge need for computers, but the school does not have access to main electricity.
An affordable, reliable electricity supply could be the biggest innovation for education in Uganda.
It is worth to mention that, a lot of progress has also been made.
Illiteracy levels in Uganda has dropped down following the inception of U.P.E and U.S.E programs. The number of school going children has shot high despite the increasing drop rate.
There is a notable reduction in the poverty levels.
Statistics reveal that Uganda is among the leading entrepreneurial countries.
This is directly attributed to the contribution of the education sector.