Friday March 10 2017

Address root causes of teacher absenteeism

Pupils listen to their teacher during a class

Pupils listen to their teacher during a class recently. File photo 

By Editor

Teachers in Masaka District face court action should a resolution already endorsed by the municipality education officials get to be implemented.

Addressing an education stakeholders meeting, involving parents, head teachers and education officers at Masaka Mayor’s Chambers recently, Mr Moses Kawuma, the municipality deputy inspector of schools, said a directive has been sent to all head teachers in the district to identify and name teachers who abscond from duty without valid reasons.

Teacher absenteeism has been cited as one of the major factors responsible for poor academic performance in many schools across the country.

Therefore, it is crucial that strict measures are taken to make it costly for a teacher to abandon classroom work for anything else. However, while Masaka District and the country at large continue to grapple with the vice of teacher absenteeism, it is imperative that the reasons that force teachers to keep out of their classroom should be established.

This is the greatest challenge head teachers and other education stakeholders should investigate if a lasting solution to absenteeism is to be found.

They should ascertain what drives a teacher away from their classroom to start, for instance, riding boda bodas (motorcycle transport business); what makes a teacher reach school way past their lesson time and, therefore, cause pupils to miss a lesson; and what makes a teacher so insecure.

If the matter of absenteeism is not approached scientifically, we may end up dragging many teachers to court and charging them for a vice, which is only a symptom of the greater malaise in the education system. And if this happens, who then will teach our children considering that not every person on the street can be a teacher?

As a way forward, it would be better, in the short-term, to heed former Education minister Namirembe Bitamazire’s proposal that perennial absentee teachers be paid basing on the number of days they teach. This is a penalty but which can encourage teachers to be regular in their classrooms if they are to earn good pay.

In the long-run, there is need to comprehensively address the issue of teachers’ lack of accommodation by housing them in school staff quarters. Accommodating teachers will reduce the distance and lower the cost they have to incur in order to reach the school where they teach.

Besides, focus should be directed at paying teachers a reasonable salary considering that many of them skip lessons to do fringe jobs to make ends meet. Most importantly, inspectors of schools should make regular visits to keep abreast with what goes on the institutions. This can keep in check unnecessary absenteeism.
The issue: Teacher absenteeism.
Our view: As a way forward, it would be better, in the short-term, to heed former Education minister Namirembe Bitamazire’s proposal that perennial absentee teachers be paid basing on the number of days they teach.

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