Thursday October 25 2012

6,500 vacancies for science teachers remain unfilled

By PATIENCE AHIMBISIBWE & AL-MAHDI SSENKABIRWA

Despite a government policy that made science subjects compulsory for all secondary school students, there is a reported shortage of 6,500 teachers to teach the subjects.

According to the Ministry of Education, even the available 6,500 science teachers, a good number of them were ill-trained and cannot adequately pass on the skills to the learners.

“This presents a vicious circle of poor quality science education which needs to be broken,” said Mr John Agaba, the Commissioner Secondary Education.

This worrying trend explains why the proportion of students passing science and mathematics in national examinations has considerably remained very low with barely 1 per cent attaining credit passes except for mathematics.

For example, at least 75 per cent of candidates presented for UCE 2011 could not score a credit in chemistry.

“Students often fail to acquire science laboratory skills because their teachers were unable to conduct practical lessons as they would like,” he said.

Mr Agaba said in some 25 seed secondary schools which were constructed and fully  furnished with science laboratories using   money from Africa Development Bank , teachers had confessed that they had never seen or used some of the equipment provided.

Mr Agaba made the revelation during the ongoing 19th Education Sector Review Conference in Kampala.

The conference is under the theme “Addressing Learning Outcomes for Enhanced Competences.”

A decade ago, government made Chemistry, Biology and Physics non optional for students at lower secondary.

Earlier, the government had been promoting humanity subjects producing large numbers of white -collar graduates such as lawyers, economists, administrators who were on high demand soon after independence to fill gaps left behind by colonialists.

According to Mr Agaba, at least 102 out of the 1,067 government-aided secondary schools don’t have any teacher for Mathematics on pay roll, 104 have no teacher of physics while 93 others lack Biology teachers.

“And this situation is not only in  public schools  .Out of 743 private secondary schools under USE programme ,622 have no permanent science and Mathematics teachers and this is what is actually on the ground,” he said 

Such schools depend either on part-time teachers or unqualified teachers. Some good science teachers complain of poor pay and many sought for greener pastures abroad where they think they can be paid handsomely.

“This represents 89 per cent of all private secondary schools under USE programme and it has risen to undesirable practice of sharing teachers between schools. They are over stretched and have limited time to prepare for lessons and give guidance to students,” Mr Agaba said.

In spite of the huge investment in the sector, Education Minister Jessica Alupo said the sector continues to face challenges internally and externally which impact on the efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery.

A recent study indicates high rates of teacher absenteeism, inadequate teachers, inadequate inspection; low completion rates high dropout rates are affecting the sector.

“We have the right policies and implementation strategies in place but are overwhelmed by these multifaceted challenges and we need every stakeholders input,” she said

Belgium Ambassador, Mr Alain Hanssen who represented development partners commended the ministry for the steps taken so far to address the challenges at hand but advised them to bring all stakeholders on board .

“…This is very worrying and will require full attention from stakeholders,” he said

Currently, there are 25,000 secondary school teachers on the government pay roll but only 6,500 teach sciences. Government schools alone need 1,065 science teachers. Of the 1,500 private secondary schools implementing USE , none of them have more than three science  teachers .

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