About eight out of 10 pupils (79 per cent) who enrol for government’s Universal Primary Education (UPE) drop out of school due to lack of fees despite the programme being deemed free of charge.
This is contained in new report by the Ministry of Education which also shows that seven out of 10 pupils (67 per cent) pupils who enrol for UPE drop out of school before reaching Primary Seven.
The report titled: “Out of School Children Uganda”, observes that failure to access and complete basic cycle of quality primary education limits future opportunities for children.
“Policies to improve access and school progression for all, as well as reduce the numbers of children dropping out of school are critical if universal primary education is to be achieved. We need to find out where, why and what can be done to reduce barriers to education and support them to stay in school,” reads part of the report.
The survey was done by Ministry of Education in conjunction with Stromme Foundation, Save the Children, Eriks Development Partners, Unicef and UNHCR. It was conducted among 3,138 households from 16 sample districts and four refugee camps of Nakivale, Kyangwali, Rhino and Kampala.
The lead researcher, Dr Moses Lubaale noted that there was misconception by many stakeholders who think Universal Primary Education (UPE) is free, thus leaving all responsibilities of educating a child to government.
“Education is not free. Many people interpreted the UPE policy wrongly. A parent is expected to buy scholastic materials and provide food for the child. The parent involvement at school is minimal and this affects the results and has to be rethought,” said Dr Lubaale, a Makerere University lecturer.
His colleague Dr Christine Mpyungu highlighted that 79 per cent of the households interviewed had their children quit school prematurely due to lack of money. Domestic work was another factor which contributed to high dropout rates followed by lack of interest in education, sexual harassment, overcrowding and failing exams.
The research indicated that 58 per cent of the households had children who had not enrolled for school at all because they did not have money. Out of the 9 per cent children with disabilities, only 6 per cent complete primary level.
The central region had the highest number of households with children out of school, accounting for 83.8 per cent compared to the northern region which posted 40.6 per cent.
The report recommends that government regulates the fees charged in different schools and explain the differences in school dues, improve implementation of policies on child labour and recruit more teachers.
Dr Daniel Nkaada, Ministry of Education commissioner for primary education, welcomed the findings and added that there is need for government to do further research to establish where they can concentrate the limited resources to cause an impact.
He had reservations on the government money allocated to each pupil in UPE saying it is too little for the schools to provide the necessary requirements to produce a skilled child. The report cites Gulu Public Primary School, where parents agreed to contribute Shs69,000 a year to supplement government funding to improve the children’s examination performance grades.
According to the report, this leaves many children out of school because they cannot afford the cost.