Uneb accused of undermarking top city schools

Saturday January 19 2019

Excelled. Cornerstone Junior School pupils in Mukono District pose for a photo to celebrate their success in last year’s Primary Leaving Examinations. PHOTO BY JESSICA SABANO

A section of parents have accused Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb) of marking down children from top Kampala schools.
But the exams body has dismissed the allegation as false and baseless.
Prior to and immediately after the release of the 2018 Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE), several parents approached this newspaper with the damning allegations against Uneb.

Many of the disappointed parents have taken to venting out their frustrations on social media platforms, especially WhatsApp and Facebook, claiming their children in the elite city schools are being treated with malice by the exams body.
Owners and administrators of these schools that pay school fees and requirements in dollars have had a hard time calming down the disappointed parents and children.

The concerned parents say they now maintain their children in the popular city schools but register them elsewhere to do exams in less known schools in rural areas and city suburbs where they think they will be graded favourably.
Both concerned school administrators and parents Sunday Monitor spoke to were reluctant to go public against the exams body and the Education ministry, citing a number of reasons including being public servants.
They also cited fear of retribution as their children are still at the mercy of Uneb and fearing their schools being “marked” and “targeted”.

But one parent, Dr Roy William Mayega, however, bit the bullet and went public with the claims on his Facebook page.
“For at least three years (probably even many more), Uneb seems to have conjured an unwritten policy to under-mark the top schools in Kampala. Ok, there is a chance it is a systematic problem with instructional approach of the elite schools, but the patterns with which these once thriving titans are crushing shows clearly that this trend is not occurring by chance alone - at least statistically,” he wrote.

A parent of a high-flying pupil at a Kampala school (name withheld), last year, reportedly petitioned Uneb after the PLE results were returned, placing his child in Second Grade, with aggregate 15.
But the parent, Sunday Monitor has learnt, demanded a review of his son’s marks or he takes the exams body to court.
After remarking, the child’s score was revised to aggregate 7.

The parent and Uneb reportedly entered into an agreement to keep the incident out of the public ear.
Another parent, a statistician, who approached Sunday Monitor, said she had been studying the results for the past three years and decided to test the system last year.
The parent, who asked us to conceal her identity by virtue of her employment, said she pulled out one of her “less bright children” from a Kololo-based school and maintained the “brighter one” in the school.
When the results were released, the child who had remained in the top Kampala school had scored aggregate 9, while the other child who was moved away passed with aggregate 7.


“Do you know how many parents have called me telling me I was sharp and they were stupid?”
We asked her what she thinks could be the motive, if such a thing is happening.
“We as parents discuss and think that the Education ministry and the government want to show that the Universal Primary Education has worked. The ministry and government have paid special focus on the schools, the teachers are so serious, not striking as they used to and so the children are learning and rural schools have improved. It is a political move,” the parent said.
Other theories that have been advanced include that the move could be motivated by business competition, but this viewpoint was quickly dismissed because the financial muscle of the schools that are allegedly being unfairly treated cannot be rivalled by the other schools.

Dr Mayega further wrote: “The policy makers have a ‘sinister plan to kill the top schools and the policy makers want to demo that UPE schools are better than private schools.”
He added: “Others are fronting an equity argument as the explanation: That the D1 cut-off point top-end private schools is 90 per cent and above while that for other schools is 75 per cent. The latter explanation seems to be more prevalent among the people I have talked to - however, if it were true, what would be the rationale for the cut-off points and was a proper calibration done before the cut-offs were decided?”

But Uneb executive secretary Daniel Odongo, in response to our inquiry, dismissed the claims as baseless.
“This is a figment of someone’s imagination. What would be the motive of an examination body to do that? The allegation is false,” he wrote.

The numbers

A quick analysis of the performance of the 380 schools in Kampala shows that only 58 students in the district scored aggregate 4 in the 2018 PLE.
The aggregate 4 scores, however, were taken by less known schools with Hormisdallen Day School topping the list with 16 pupils with aggregate 4 followed by Good Times Kawaala Primary School which had 10 pupils passing with aggregate 4.

Kampala Parents had two pupils with aggregate 4, while Green Hill Academy, City Parents and Sir Apollo Kaggwa each had one pupil with aggregate 4.
Other top city schools, including Kabojja Junior Primary School, and Kampala Junior, and Kitante Primary School had no pupil scoring aggregate 4.