January 12 saw the release of yet another bunch of Primary Leaving Examinations results. The tone of the results wasn’t any different from the previous years’ performance with urban pupils outwitting their rural counterparts as is always the case.
The euphoria among urban pupils caught everyone’s attention while rural pupils and their parents wallowed on in the miserable state of affairs. But for how long shall we look on as thousands of rural children’s future is stifled and the geniuses in them never aroused? It should be noted that majority of the country’s population is rural based with many caught between unplanned rural-urban migration thus, ending up in slams where the situation is no better than life in the rural areas.
Government has attributed poor performance in primary schools to teachers’ absenteeism, especially in rural areas with Ms Rosemary Sseninde, the State minister for Primary Education, calling for an immediate tough measure against such teachers if the general performance is to improve. However, why are the teachers who are not taking their primary duty and responsibility keenly and is this the real problem causing the disparities in primary schools across the country?
Introspectively, it is human nature to shift the blame to the weakest available target whenever progress isn’t being registered but unfortunately, this doesn’t solve the problem.
In spite of free Universal Primary Education, which has seen enrolment numbers shoot up, poor performance in rural schools has remained largely unsolved! The general evaluation of education in rural areas, especially in the imperative primary section is that, it isn’t meeting its projected goal of nurturing and moulding young minds into well-grounded pupils ready for a competitive and broader platform on the world stage. Primary education forms the foundation for gaining basic knowledge without which children’s big dreams are lost. It is the core foundation in the life long pursuit of a purposeful, proactive and productive living which when neglected becomes a huge stumbling block in the way to rapid socio-economic development of any country.
It is time we stopped the blame game, time to roll up our sleeves and devise well-conceived but different strategies aimed at achieving an inclusive and quality education for all children. Elementary education can be compared to the first stride that a person takes in life, it is impossible for people to run without first learning how they can walk.
Teachers’ absenteeism is part of the problem for poor performance in the rural schools. However, many other reasons abound and these include;
Poorly facilitated schools, attitudes and practices for instance, cultural or religious beliefs, wide spread poverty in rural areas hindering parents’ full support for their children in school. Child labour and work: - children are inconsiderately engaged at home hence hampering their regular attendance of school leading to poor performance. This is because parents can not afford the loss of income and labour contribution of their children.
High adult illiteracy rates in rural areas, health related inconveniences such as poor nutrition hinder full participation of pupils at school. Deplorable learning environment for example, bad sanitation, overly crowded ramshackled classrooms devoid of furniture thus, contributing to increased likelihood of non-attendance and drop out rates.
Lack of timely supervision and apt assessment, lack of enough teacher capacity resulting in work overload of the available few, lack of political will to craft, implement and enforce effective policies, unattractive curricula coupled with poor delivery methods. The missing link of a readiness to learn as well as low motivation of the learners.
What can be done about the above obstacles to improve on the poor performance in rural schools?
Rebrand the teaching profession to make it more attractive by improving teachers’ terms and conditions of service, and their welfare. A motivated teacher certainly has that inner drive to deliver quality instruction.
Enhance community participation by empowering communities to hold schools accountable for quality teaching. This can be organised by village councils to monitor the performance indicators.
Revise the current teaching and learning schemes by considering participatory teaching methods that stimulate inquisitiveness, creativity and problem-solving skills.
Provide extra support and technical assistance to the remotest of schools to give them additional leverage.
Carry out regular and timely assessment of learning progress and outcomes.
Ensure regular teacher refresher courses and seminars to keep the teachers updated and up to their tasks. Promote capacity building and policies that encourage second chances for pupils who drop out of school to support re-enrolment, retention and successful completion of primary education.
Regular awareness and sensitisation campaigns to drum up the importance of education running under the theme “Educate a child, build a strong nation”
Advocacy and implementation plans to make schools more attractive, safer and secure for the pupils. Inclusive school programmes and facilities that cater for, and encourage all children to learn. Water and sanitation projects, taking note of separate sanitation facilities for both girls and boys.
Ms Nabuzale lives in Germany