Two decades ago, Teso plunged into civil strife that left much of its public infrastructure destroyed and the region has since been struggling to recover from the ruins.
Several schools were rundown during the insurgency and much of the region’s education progress was brought to almost a halt, making many of the school going children then, to drop out of the formal education cycle.
Despite the remarkable improvement in enrolment since the start of UPE in 1996, Teso region has fielded very poor results at the annual national Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) for a larger part of the last 17 years.
The impact of insurgency, cattle rustling, and a wave of natural disasters such as the 2007 floods, have also created long-standing social disruption and deprivation that have combined to entrench people in the region in perpetual distress.
“Teso had an outstanding education arrangement. Many of those who passed through the schools received the best instruction and a majority of them were able to join university,” former Constituency Assembly Delegate for Serere district, Christopher Amorut said.
Eastern giant, Teso College Aloet once groomed profound leaders, including the governor Bank of Uganda, Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile, but that was years ago. The stardom of Teso schools has continued to fade away.
The quality of education in the region is wanting and even the government’s free education scheme for primary and secondary schools has not been of much help. Whereas in the past, government schools that used to perform better than those privately owned, it is now the latter that are ever excelling in the final national examinations.
“Political instability is to blame for the misfortunes that have befallen education in Teso. Local leaders are also not committed to engaging communities to generate solutions on how to get better performance from children in the region,” Fr. Lawrence Akepa, Soroti Catholic Diocese education secretary said.
He said in a bid to enhance quality education in the region, the Catholic and Anglican dioceses of Soroti have formed a joint advisory board on how to promote education quality in the region’s primary schools.
“Stakeholders must join hands and ensure that education standards are improved in the region. There is need for parents to help complement the role of teachers in molding children for better performance,” Fr. Alepa said. According to a UNESCO study of academic achievements in the teaching and learning process across Teso, seven categories of variables identified as affecting pupils’ performance include organisational and management practices, parents and the community, social incentives and socio-economic conditions.
“Analyses of the examination results for the Primary Leaving Examinations of the Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB) in Uganda shows that academic achievement at the end of the seven-year primary education cycle in the Teso region of Uganda is very poor, and consistently so,” the report reads in part.
It proposes provision of committed all-round support to teaching and learning activities in schools and continuous professional development for teachers targeting subject knowledge development as well as instructive skills in aspects like cooperative learning, inquiry-based approaches, problem-solving and communication skills.
In Teso, an estimated 80 per cent of pupils who sat for the 2013 PLE passed through the universal primary schools that performed poorly too in the just released results.
“Parents have neglected their duties in ensuring quality for the children. The Universal Primary Education (UPE) initiated by government to help children from poor families to access primary education has not helped much,” a parent, Maryline Afwono said.
But as the region continues to encounter challenges of poor education, there is need to explore the underlying factors underpinning poor performance.
HOW PRIVATE SCHOOLS ARE BEATING UPE SCHOOLS
In the 2013 Primary Leaving Examinations released end of last month, private schools dominated high ranks of schools that excelled in the examinations, an attribute of the waning education standards for public schools in the region.
Soroti District Education Officer (DEO), John Etoyu said the best performing five primary schools in the district are privately owned with best overall in the recent results being Teso Boarding that got 64 pupils in first division out of a total of 92 candidates.