Sunday May 11 2014

Fix Uganda’s primary education system

Uganda must listen to Uwezo. For three years now, Uwezo has sounded the alarm bells that our children are wasting time in school. The report says the youngsters cannot ably count and read. Worse, the Uwezo 2013 assessment places pupils in Uganda rock bottom below counterparts in Kenya and Tanzania.

More distressing, government’s own report says only three in 10 of the children scramble through the classes to complete Primary Seven. Conversely, every seven of 10 of the children who start off in Primary One drop out before Primary Seven.

In crisp terms, Uganda is raising more out-of-school children than in-school children. The goal of improved access, school progression for all, and reduced drop-out rates through universal primary education (UPE) is crumbling. Worse, parents are only minimally involved in pupils’ education.

Government needs to quickly act on the twin reports by Uwezo, and Ministry of Education, Stromme Foundation, Save the Children, Eriks Development Partners, UNICEF and UNHCR. Uganda needs a swing around on primary education policy.

Clearly, Uganda has no future from our children’s limited opportunities. Unless reversed, the pathetic status quo risks wiping off Uganda’s Vision 2040 that proposes a shift from a peasant to modern and prosperous country within 30 years. This implies our children will not have advanced skills and will not compete with Kenyan and Tanzanian counterparts in the open East African labour market.

Evidently, government must not be deaf-mute on the reports. Government should heed the double warnings, examine the reports, change course, and improve learning of our children. As commissioner for primary education Dr Daniel Nkaada said, government should weigh against other options like the Kenyan model of rewarding teachers to see whether it delivers results. Kenya accords better and higher salaries, besides free housing, pays commuter allowance, and grants free medical insurance to its teachers.

Government should revise policies on contributions to parent-teachers association to boost UPE, advice parents on domestic workload for pupils; check sexual harassment, overcrowding in schools, and review exam failure and drop-out rates. Government’s proposed Shs7,000 as capitation grant per child in UPE is low and must be revised upwards for schools to produce a skilled child.

Uganda’s primary education system is broken. We must fix it. Our children must access and complete quality primary education.