Friday July 25 2014

When pupils share class with sheep

 Primary Five pupils waiting for their teacher as sheep occupy another

Primary Five pupils waiting for their teacher as sheep occupy another classroom. The classrooms are separated by poles. Photo by Francis Mugerwa 

By Francis Mugerwa

Hoima- It is a windy and sunny afternoon. Classes are ongoing at Kyehoro Primary School, one of the public schools in Hoima District. The government-aided school with an enrolment of 272 pupils, is located in Kabwooya Sub-county, about 92km from Hoima Town.

The school which is in Nkondo parish in the Albertine grabben, is in the same village where oil explorers have discovered the Ngassa-1 Oil Well.
Teaching and learning sessions in the P5 and P6 classes are under an iron-roofed shade that is built with poles.

The teachers reveal that the sorry structure was built by parents. The floor in the classes is bare and dusty. But inside the classes, are also goats and sheep.

While others are standing, other domestic animals are lying on the floor of the classes. The school’s Parents Teachers Association (PTA) chairman, Mr Isaac Oryema, who had turned up at the school for routine supervision, told this newspaper that, pupils sharing classes with domestic animals is not strange in the area.

“The animals are from the communities where these pupils come from,” he explains.
The community in the village is largely comprised of fishermen and subsistence farmers who live on the shores of Lake Albert and neighbour the Kabwooya-Kaiso-Tonya Game Reserve.

The livestock farmers use a free-range grazing system where animals roam freely in communal grazing grassland. The school is not fenced and part of the school land is used by the community for grazing. Consequently, the animals stray into the school premises and often enter classrooms.

The stray animals are a challenge to the health and environment at the school. They drop dung in the premises and classes. They destroy trees but parents and pupils seem comfortable with co-existing with animals at school.

The school head teacher, Mr Robert Kugonza, said the school lacks adequate funds to fence off the school or maintain the compound. “Yes, these structures are in a sorry state however, we have accordingly notified district authorities,” Mr Kugonza said.

He said parents are reluctant to contribute any funds to the government-aided school. Kyehoro Primary School implements the Universal Primary Education (UPE) programme.

The school was started by the community in 1996 and basing on requests from the community it was taken over by government in 2004.

The roaming goats and sheep eat grass in the school’s compound which the authorities fail to regularly slash apparently due to inadequate funds which the school receives.

An investigation by this newspaper reveals that domestic animals are not the only challenge at the school. It lacks any permanent structure. It has a shade that accommodates P6 and P5 classes. The P7 class which is in a mud and wattle house is also used by the head teacher as his office.

Children in P1, P2 and P3 classes study in a wooden- structure, painted green. It is, however, iron-roofed but the floor of mud.

Mr Kugonza says each quarter, the school receives an average of Shs1 million as UPE grant which is spent on instruction materials, co-curricular activities and administration expenses.

Ironically, despite the sorry state of the school, statistics availed by the Hoima District education office reveals that it is one of the relatively good performing schools in the district.

According to UNEB results obtained by this newspaper, Out of the 19 candidates that sat for PLE in 2012 at the school, eight passed in second grade, six passed in third grade, three passed in fourth grade and two were ungraded.

In 2012, Kyehoro Primary school performed better than Butema BCS Primary school which has permanent buildings for all seven classrooms and offices.
Out of the 43 candidates that sat for PLE, five got second grade,12 got third grade,four attained fourth grade,13 got U while nine were ungraded.

In 2011, six candidates sat for PLE at the school and five passed in second grade while one failed.
In 2010, out of the 12 candidates that sat for PLE, six passed in second grade, five got third grade and one was in fourth grade.

The Hoima district Education Officer, Mr Godfrey Sserwanja, concedes that the school is in a sorry state but asked parents to be patient until Tullow hands over the new structures.

“We anticipate the new structures to be handed to us by September. We have met parents and urged them to be patient,” he said.

He however said parents who are impatient can temporarily relocate their children to Kaiso Primary School which is less than a kilometer away from the school.

Mr Sserwanja said the community in Kyehoro loves education, teachers are committed and parents who are mainly fishermen provide scholastic materials and food to their children.

He said that explains why it is performing better than some schools that have permanent structures, have adequate teachers and are near Hoima Town.

“If we send the best teachers and adequate teaching instructions to those rural schools, where children feed on nutritious food unlike town-based pupils who go without lunch and stay at school playing during lunch time, we can tap some of the best brains of this country,” he said.

Uganda is one of the countries in the world that committed itself towards achieving the Millennium Development goals.

Goal 2 requires countries to achieve Universal Primary Education.

“Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling,” Target 2.A of the goal states.

The learning conditions at Kyehoro Primary School call for the country to increase its support to schools with such sorry conditions in order for Uganda to achieve the goal.

CORPORATE INTERVENTION

According to the school headteacher, Mr Robert Kugonza, parents are hesitant to contribute funds to improve facilities at the school because Tullow Oil, a firm that discovered commercially viable oil deposits in the area, is building structures for the school about 300 metres away from the current school.

Tullow Oil Uganda’s communications executive David Onyango says the school will be finalised by the end of this year.

As part of its social investment, Tullow oil is building four classroom blocks, a Kitchen, six staff houses and four VIP latrines for the school.

“Social Investment is a social performance tool for managing social impacts associated with our operations and leveraging the benefits which our business can bring to host countries and communities through education, local content and capacity building initiatives so that people can participate in the industry supply chain.

To that end, Tullow Uganda is implementing infrastructure projects in Buliisa and Hoima districts to support community development in the EA2 operation area,” Mr Onyango said in an email response to this newspaper about the company’s interventions in the area.

THE STATISTICS

Hoima District has 135 government-aided primary schools and 120 private primary schools. This year, the district has a total enrolment of 79,355 pupils.

According to Mr Sserwanja, the district has a teacher to pupil ratio of 1:58 compared to the national average of 1:53. While the national desk to pupil ratio is 1:3, Hoima’s ratio is 1:5.

He said Hoima’s classroom to pupil ratio is 1:58 compared to the national average of 1:53.
The pupil to book ratio is 1:6 in Hoima compared to the national average of 1:3.

During the 2012/2013 financial year, Hoima District passed a budget of Shs19.7 billion out of which Shs8.8 billion was allocated to the education sector.

During the 2013/2014 financial year, the district approved a budget of Shs21.2 billion out of which Shs9.8 billion was allocated to the education sector.

The district’s budget for the 2014/2015 financial year is Shs21.2 billion out of which Shs9.5 billion is for the education sector.

An analysis reveals that the budget for the education sector 2012/2013 financial year increased from Shs8.8 billion to Shs9.8 billion in the 2013/2014 financial year. However, it has reduced to Shs9.5 billion in the 2014/2015 financial year.
The Midwestern regional Anti Corruption Coalition (MIRAC), a regional Anti Corruption agency has urged government to increase the budget for the health and education sectors.

The coalition’s Programme Officer Mr Herbert Monday said under the Strengthening Citizen Urgency Project, MIRAC has documented cases of poor supervision, monitoring, inadequate scholastic materials, and absenteeism at various schools and health facilities in the district.

fmugerwa@ug.natonmedia.com

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