UPE programme still grappling with teacher shortages, big numbers

Monday July 4 2011

Many schools with no electricity have to do with hurricane or pressure lamps.

Many schools with no electricity have to do with hurricane or pressure lamps. PHOTO BY Ephraim Kasozi 

By Ephraim Kasozi

Despite the government intervention to enable all pupils to access universal education, many schools in the rural areas are grappling with an ever-increasing enrollment.

In many schools, especially primary, the ratio of teachers to pupils is estimated at 1:70 compared to the required ratio of 1:40, depending on subjects taught.

A recent survey in a school in Mukono under Universal Primary Education (UPE) programme revealed that pupils in the boarding school are squeezed and they share a few beds. Brick holding platforms are used as beds and a single lantern is given to each dormitory.

St. Kizito, Ngombere, a Catholic Church-founded primary school in Mukono District with pupil population of about 890 has eight government-paid teachers and six others paid by parents, but the number is still below the required 16 teachers.

The pupils in the boarding section share banana leaf-thatched bathing places and a pressure lamp is used in the classroom at night.

But they school recently acquired a solar lighting system through Kamukamu Learning Foundation, a United States charity organisation as a boost to their learning environment, a move which pupils said would increase their hours of reading and with ease.

Teacher trouble
“Teachers had to leave early for long distances, leaving students with nothing to do in the dark. Now we have light, so studies will be easy and without interruptions,” Joseph Kiguli, a primary seven pupil.

Kiguli says the school has no text books; “But I would like to see a well-built school with better facilities including a playground because my parents brought me here telling me it is the best school in the area.”
Ms Teddy Nassande, a Primary Seven pupil commends the lighting of the school with solar power.

“We have been studying up to 7pm and unable to go beyond.” She, however, says light at the school was just one impediment to their learning; “We are many in class and in the dormitory, we share beds yet this boarding section is helping me to have more time to concentrate on reading than walking the four miles to and from home.”

Mr Fred Wanyu Nsubuga, the chairman of the school management committee says: “If we can acquire a library, our pupils will be able to carry out more academic activities.

Mr Stephen Ssemaala, the Chairman of Kamukamu Learning Foundation, says the idea of providing solar lighting to Ngombere Primary school was perceived through collaboration with the head teacher and other administrators.

Mr Henry Jacob Watuutu, the school head teacher says the school has been spending up to Shs15,000 worth of paraffin to light the classes and dormitories, “But the congestion problem is worse because the pupils sit squeezed,” he emphasised.