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.