When Patrick Kyalimpa went for a parents-teachers meeting at his child’s school in Wakiso District recently, he was informed that it was mandatory for all candidates to have coaching classes.
He says the teachers argued that a Primary Seven pupil had so much to cover in a short period of time and if teachers did not find an alternative method, completing the syllabus would be impossible.
“Coaching would not have been a problem but it was coming at an extra cost. Each parent was asked to pay Shs50,000 per month as facilitation for the teachers in addition to the school fees that we were paying,” he says.
To Kyalimpa, this was an inconvenience since he had already paid Shs850,000 as school fees for the term.
Alice Nankya, a parent to a Primary Six pupil in Mukono, was also forced to pay coaching fees for her child but in a different method from Kyalimpa’s. She was called at her child’s school and asked to facilitate the class teacher such that her child would get special coaching classes since she was a slow learner.
“I was informed by the administrators that my child was a slow learner who needed special attention. The class teacher asked me for Shs100,000 if I wanted my child to improve. What I did not understand, however, was whether schools are nowadays charging slow learners extra,” she says.
These and more are emerging trends among schools that believe that in order for a child to excel, they need special attention which can only be provided through coaching classes at an extra cost on the parent.
Though the Ministry of Education and Sports banned coaching from all schools in Uganda especially holiday coaching, a number of schools are yet to embrace this ban.
They have instead formed special classes which are not part of the normal school calendar where they teach students concepts they may not have understood during class time.
Extra effort needed
According to Deogracious Ssekanoni, the deputy head teacher Seeta Junior School, coaching is designed to better the student’s performance. He explains that it is a priority for schools to see pupils excel and they can only achieve this through putting in extra effort.
“In most cases, extra effort in teaching helps students to better their performance. When a child is taught a concept more than once, they master it,” he says.
He adds that coaching classes are tailored to have students reflect on what they learn during official school time in a more in-depth way which in turn helps slow learners to catch up with their colleagues thus better results at the National Level.
“Though some parents are against coaching, they are the very parents who are always looking out for the best performing schools to enroll their children. As administrators we are on pressure to compete favourably,” Ssekanoni says.
However, according to State minister for Primary Education, Rosemary Sseninde, coaching in schools is not allowed. She maintains that institutions, both government and private, should abide by the annual academic calendar, released at the beginning of every academic year and not to add other classes.
“There is a reason why the ministry designed the school’s education calendar without time for coaching. A normal child needs to rest in order to perform well, but if you occupy their resting time through coaching, you will be denying them the opportunity to rest,” she says.
Schools are not supposed to teach during weekends because this according to the school calendar is supposed to be time for resting.
“Violation of this calendar will call for disciplinary action against head teachers and schools like we have on several occasions punished those who operate during Holidays,” she says.
Although teachers argue that coaching helps a child to catch up especially if they are slow learners, it is important to note that these learners also need time to rest.