The dismal performance of the Busoga sub region has been documented for years. For instance, in 2015, it was reported that 15, 851 pupils had been ungraded and only 3,900 pupils had attained first grades.
It was this performance that prompted the Minister of State for Primary Education, Rosemary Seninde together with the Basic Education department to come up with a rescue plan for struggling schools in the country.
Starting with the eastern region, in particular Busoga, a research was carried out to trace the exact cause of poor performance so as to intervene.
Working with the Uganda National Examination Board and Busoga Education Initiative, two schools with the worst performances were selected from each district in the region.
The initiative is aimed at improving the country’s most struggling schools through re-training teachers.
“It is time for a sophisticated strategy that goes beyond listing the worst performing schools in the different regions,” Dr. Rose Badaza, a member of the Busoga initiative observes.
The programme is focused at re-training teachers, taking them through lesson planning, curriculum interpretation and class management, among other things.
Badaza notes that the training will be continuous and is meant to address the negative attitude towards the education sector from both teachers and society as it works towards achieving better results.
“The innovation will involve giving failing schools constant support through supervision, assessment and teachers will get supplementary training each time they are called upon,” Badaza explains.
Irene Connelly, the principal Viva Collage, Jinja was one of the trainers who hosted 270 teachers of 22 schools from 11 districts in Busoga.
Connelly reveals that if the teachers are not well equipped, then pupils’ progress will be in vain. She says many teachers in rural schools lack the proper skills and some tend to ignore their calling and thus, the training is meant to awaken and remind them of their responsibilities.
To Connelly, teachers have an option to always improve something about the local curriculum. During the training, Connelly urged teachers to borrow a leaf from international basic practices to help them improve on their teaching skills.
“All the places I have been to, I got chances to borrow different education ideas from them. And it is those ideas that have helped me provide a more holistic approach to education not just being an examination facility,” Connelly shares.
The smarter path to boosting performance, Connelly mentions, is to improve the quality of the teachers who are already teaching.
At the age of 18, Connelly’s passion for the teaching sector saw her graduate with a master’s degree in education. Today, she is hired by troubled schools to cure the plague of poor performances and change the negative attitude towards the education developments.
Connelly goes on to emphasise, that teachers need to know they are professionals practising at the same level as lawyers, doctors and engineers. She says teachers are highly skilled people who master a complicated set of skills. However, she says, in Uganda many feel they are not professionals.
“Teachers need to remember that teaching is not just a way of paying bills. It is true that teaching does not pay much as other careers but has more rewards to it,” Connelly claims.
The education expert says today many people still remember that one teacher who impacted their lives.
“They might not reward you but your name will always cross their mind. What you say or do will make a difference in someone else’s life. Teachers are in that unique position not many people can be.”
Teaching is a continuous profession, as a teacher you constantly need to update your skills. New ideas are being discovered, new challenges being solved, you will never consider yourself a finished article,” she explains.
Some schools in Busoga have large classes with more than 100 pupils which Connelly says would not be a problem if one was a skilled teacher.
“100 pupils being taught by one excellent teacher will make more progress than 20 students being taught by a teacher who does not know what are they doing,” she highlights.
Seninde says this training is not stopping with Bugosa, after testing its fruits the initiative will be extended to other regions.
Areas of concern
During the training, Connelly said the areas of concern are to improve attendance and academic performance. The mind-set and financial matters were also addressed. Commitment from all the teachers, pupils, parents and community leaders is of great concern and resourcefulness.
About the Busoga Education Initiative
The Busoga Education Initiative was launched by the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga on December 2, 2018. The aim is to improve the quality of education in Busoga sub-region, by mobilising resources to facilitate teaching and learning. it is also meant to improve facilities in schools, fight teenage pregnancies and reduce school dropout rate, among other things.