Kampala- Uganda’s education is struggling with poor quality and low retention of learners in school, a new World Bank study indicates.
The report; Facing Forward Schooling for Learning in Africa, places Uganda and Tanzania in group two which comprises countries with high dropout rates for children of primary school age and low retention of pupils.
Kenya is ranked in group one, which comprises countries whose primary enrolment and retention is almost 100 per cent.
Presenting the findings in Kampala yesterday, Ms Sajitha Bashir, the World Bank education practice manager for Eastern Africa, warned that while sub-Saharan countries have focused on enrolling students in primary school in the last 25 years towards developing their human capital, it must be equipped with adequate competencies in literacy, numeracy and science.
“Enrolment alone does not produce knowledge capital. It must prepare many of them to be educated and trained beyond basic education. Sub-Saharan Africa’s knowledge capital remains thin,” Ms Bashir said.
Speaking at the launch of the report, the Education minister, Ms Janet Museveni, attributed Uganda’s decline in education to the chaotic years the country went through in 1960s to the late 80s’ that destroyed most of the systems.
“I need to give a background why Uganda finds itself in a place it appears today. Uganda lost two decades when it was in the time of chaos and the national systems were all in decay, stunted as our population was growing. It took us some two decades to go through that. In the third decade, we had to do rehabilitation of the system. Catching up with the needs of our country with other countries. We only started recently and the going has been tough,” Ms Museveni said.
“Uganda was known as the best in the region in education. Most of the leaders were actually educated in Uganda. Unfortunately, in the report now, Uganda is in group two. When we were destroying our country and its systems, our neighbours were working and improving their systems. Uganda needs to run to catch up with the region. I invite our partners who walk with us to have the willingness to run with us to catch up with the world,” she added.
The report identifies poor teacher training, language of instruction in school, teacher and learner absenteeism, teaching materials and overcrowded classrooms, and low budget with 60 per cent of the sector’s money going to wages as main hindrances to a conducive learning environment in Uganda.
However, Ms Museveni said the problems have been variously cited in the past and appealed to donors to support Uganda in finding solutions to resolve such challenges.
“Nonetheless, this to us is a wakeup call,” she said.
The report recognises that children understand better in their local languages and encouraged countries to review their curricula in a language the citizens best understand.
Ms Museveni said she has previously discussed with her technical team at the National Curriculum Development Centre on the contribution of primary examinations and that there have been discussions to abolish them to promote continuous assessment.
The minister said she used to think that education was taking a lot of the national budget until she was appointed the political head of the ministry only to learn that a big part of the money goes to paying teachers salaries and only 40 per cent is used in the teaching and learning processes.
Mr Alex Kakooza, the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, said government was aware of the issues mentioned in the report, adding that efforts are being made to improve the situation.
The World Bank country manager, Mr Antony Thompson, said while private investment in education is needed, it remains critical for government to ensure that all children from poor families and those with special needs have an equal opportunity to learn and succeed in life.
The research considered countries’ gross enrolment rates from 2000 to 2013, shares of children out of school relative to the primary school age population and retention rates in primary education.
It is estimated that lower secondary education will face the greatest expansion in the sub-Saharan region requiring an additional two million teachers and 1.4m classrooms in the next 15 years.
“These two major outputs will drive costs and impose huge demands on the education sector to train, manage and support teachers; build and equip classrooms with minimum learning conditions and ensure that the capacity exists to manage this rapidly expanding system while improving the quality,” the report reads in part.