Kampala. The government has spent Shs4.8 billion on students who failed last year’s Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) examinations under the Universal Secondary Education (USE) programme.
The Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb) statistics show that 27,955 students who sat Senior Four last year failed to meet the basic level of competence to be graded by the board and will be required to repeat the level if they want to further their education.
Uneb further shows that of the failures, 16,230 students are from schools implementing government’s free education [USE], which is heavily facilitated with taxpayers’ money.
Ministry of Education pays Shs47,000 per term for each student in private schools implementing this programme and Shs41,000 on those in government-aided institutions. In addition, the government pays Shs164,000 as examination fees to Uneb for each student.
This means in total, the government spent on average Shs2.1 billion in fees alone for these students for the three terms of study and Shs2.7 billion on examination fees.
While releasing the results on Wednesday, Uneb’s executive secretary Dan Odongo said performance in schools not implementing USE was better than those under the programme. He attributed the poor performance in USE institutions to lack of boarding facilities and failure by parents to contribute to the fees structure.
“Non-USE candidates are from the traditional government-aided secondary schools, most of which are boarding schools whose fees structure do not fit in the USE fees framework.
Others are from well-established private schools. The disparity in performance is, perhaps, not unexpected,” Mr Odongo said.
According to Uneb results, USE programme had 6,005 students in Division One compared to 25,333 students from Non-USE schools.
Dr Grace Lubaale, a lecturer at Kyambogo University, explained that it is important to look at why some of these students failed and ensure the mistakes are not repeated.
“The failure rate is alarming. But we need to look at why they failed. Many of these children are from poor families where it is hard to get a meal, the schools they attend lack infrastructure and don’t have enough teachers. Those students who passed are from an enabling environment that supports their good performance,” Dr Lubaale said.
At Kololo High School, one of the USE schools in the city centre, the students study in double shift in order to accommodate the big numbers that enroll there. According to the head teacher, Ms Aminah Mukasa Buyinzi, they admit more than 500 students in Senior One and sit about 400 at Senior Four each year. She explained that her students’ competition with the other schools may not be relative since their contact hours with the teachers and revision are less.
“We are glad we are giving education to more Ugandans. The challenge is the overwhelming numbers against the available teachers and classrooms. My students study from 8am to 2pm, while in other schools, they study until late. Absenteeism is our worst problem because some of my students have to work to earn a living. How do you compare our performance with such a child to that one in a boarding section?” she asked.
USE students dominated Division Four, a borderline pass and yet the government policy allows only students who have passed in Division One to Division Three to be considered on the Universal Post O-Level Education and Training Programme (UPOLET). This means that 71,644 candidates will not join UPOLET even when Uneb says they have the minimum competences.
A total of 320,119 students registered for last year’s Senior Four exams. Of these, 287,350 passed, according to Uneb.
Mr Odongo noted that the candidates’ ability to manipulate science apparatus, the skills of making measurements and observations, recording data, drawing inferences or conclusions from observations, data presentation and interpretation were tested.