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90% UPE pupils can’t read - report

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Pupils of Kakindo Primary School in Kibaale District study from an uncompleted

Pupils of Kakindo Primary School in Kibaale District study from an uncompleted structure recently. The 2012 Annual Learning Assessment report by Uwezo shows that education standards in the region are declining. Photo by Francis Mugerwa.  

By PATIENCE AHIMBISIBWE

Posted  Friday, December 13  2013 at  02:00

In Summary

Uwezo’s 2012 Annual Learning Assessment report pokes holes into Uganda’s education system and lays bare its weaknesses.

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KAMPALA- Despite government’s investment in education, new findings continue to show that several children leaving the primary cycle cannot read let alone do a Primary Two level equation.

This brings into sharp focus the different programmes intended to improve literacy and numeracy. The primary curriculum was reviewed eight years ago after critics pointed out the gaps in the system. But a new study released yesterday shows that after all this effort, learners are either stagnating or worsening.
According to the 2012 Annual Learning Assessment report by Uwezo, an international think-tank that gauges education standards in the region, little has improved over the past three years. For instance, in Primary Three, only one out of 10 pupils have Primary Two level literacy and numeracy skills.

The findings further indicate that there are harsh regional variations with children in central and western regions consistently outperforming those from eastern and northern regions.

Uwezo’s country director, Ms Mary Goretti Nakabugo, yesterday said while education is meant to be a ticket to a better life, the rude realisation is that sending your child to school is not enough; that indeed schooling is not the same as learning. The majority of children in school do not have the competencies they require.

“Only one out of every ten children assessed in Primary Three was able to read a Primary Two level story and correctly solve Primary Two level numeracy questions up to division level. Overall, only three out of 10 children assessed in Primary One up to Primary Seven were able to read a Primary Two level story. By Primary Seven, one out of 10 children still could not read a Primary Two story,” she noted.

Calls to review programme
Reacting to the report findings, Wakiso MP Rosemary Ssenninde said: “Whether we want or not, free things are not going to help us develop. We need to review the free education policy. This act needs to be amended. We want to urge the ministry of education to do much more from what they are doing now to improve the quality of education.”

Mr John Mugo, the East Africa coordinator, asked stakeholders to stop the blame game and instead create the pressure necessary to improve learning.
A total of 34, 667 households were visited in 80 districts, 2, 279 schools reached and 81, 650 children assessed.

Reading a statement on behalf of the Ministry of Education Permanent Secretary, Mr Robinson Nsumba Lyazi, the commissioner for private schools and institutions, recognised the gaps identified in the report but added that it will take time to rectify them.

“Many Universal Primary Education schools across the country are not educating our children to the level we would like. The key findings point to the fact that many pupils especially in the lower levels are unable to read and count.

The problem is worst in the eastern region. We welcome these findings as they will help us to shift focus in the areas that the report points to,” Mr Lyazi explained.

Slow progress
He, however, added that the country is closer to attaining the Millenium Development Goal 2 irrespective of the challenges faced. MDG Two aims to achieve universal primary education by the year 2015.

“Quality will be achieved but it is a slow process. We will continue to work on it and will achieve it in time,” Mr Lyazi said.

There was a slight improvement in overall literacy competencies in 2012 as three out of 10 children could read and comprehend a Primary Two level story compared to two out of 10 in 2011.

Children in private schools could comprehend a story text of Primary Two level difficulty better than those in government schools at lower and middle primary level, by a margin of 10 percentage points. This variation in comprehension was more evident at primary Four Level with a margin of 17 percentage points.

However, this gap narrows as children progress to higher classes and almost closes by the time they are in Primary Seven with a margin of two percentage points.

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