President Museveni has joined many Ugandans who feel nostalgic about the good old days when schools posted much higher academic standards. Speaking at the Mbarara Municipal School Golden Jubilee fete in the municipality at the weekend, the President decried the current poor academic performance in schools on lack of supervision. Mr Museveni said this was a far cry from his primary school days in the 1950s where there were a lot of inspection of schools.
The President is correct on one point: Poor academic performance, especially in public schools has reached worrying levels. The recently released Primary Leaving Examination and Uganda Certificate of Education results by the Uganda National Examinations Board revealed a decline in students’ performance. For instance, out of 581,586 candidates who sat for PLE, only 9per cent ([52,786) passed in Division One compared to 11.4 per cent (68,554) who passed in Division Four. And out of a total of 289,012 students who sat for UCE, only 7 per cent (20,001) passed in Division One while a whopping 8.8 per cent (25,229) failed the exams. While schools supervision is vital if standards are to improve, it is certainly not the only snag to better performance.
We all should be informed that, unlike in the past, the teaching environment in the country today is worrying. Many teachers today are crying out to government to increase their pay. To attract good teachers and to get the most out of those who are in place, they need to be paid a living wage. Teachers go to the same markets, take their children to the same schools, and have basic needs like the rest of the citizens. Many of them lack decent accommodation as there are few public schools that have teachers’ quarters.
On the other hand, children, especially those under Universal Primary Education and Universal Secondary Education study on empty stomachs, lack scholastic materials, and others study under trees. All these affect their ability to learn and focus on their studies.
To improve standards, therefore, the government should review teachers’ salaries and pay deserving teachers allowances where necessary. Above all, the government should know that good performance in schools does not just fall from the skies; it is deliberately worked for – and paid for. Hence schools administration, right from the Education ministry to local governments, should put in place mechanisms that guarantee that school programmes are managed and funded properly.