News that 25 out of 100 primary schools in Namutumba District in Busoga sub-region won’t open for first term in 2020 for lacking pit-latrines is distressing.
This is regrettable, coming after nearly two months of break that should have allowed the schools administration and management committees to liaise with the district local government and education offices, some space to put in place the requisite facilities before resumption of the school term.
More lamentable is that these are Universal Primary Education (UPE) schools, which guarantee access to education to poor rural children.
But as it stands, the situation risks keeping out of school the majority of these poor pupils from accessing UPE. These pupils, unlike their counterparts in urban settings, do not have the luxury of choice between UPE schools and well-equipped private schools.
This dilemma can also breed unintended consequences of not having pupils in schools, including diverting them to unwarranted family chores, and exposure to negative village pressures and teenage pregnancies, and dropping out of school altogether. Worryingly too, as Primary Education minister Rosemary Seninde feared, the pupils risk picking up illnesses from poor hygiene in these schools.
While the district education officer, Mr Muhammad Isiko, blames inadequate budget and the recent downpour that drenched the country and destroyed the pit-latrines, there is apparent lack of forecasting and planning by the stakeholders.
Common sense would have demanded that there be routine review and evaluation of the parameters that facilitate effective learning. This would have required that as the term closed in 2019, the stakeholders should have undertaken a quick assessment of what is in place and out of place for the new term in 2020. Such preparation would have reviewed readiness of pupils and teachers for the new term, state of classrooms, offices, and other basics like pit-latrines.
In sum, the sad tales of Namutumba schools should indict all stakeholders in our rural education system, namely the school administrators and education committees, the district education officers and district local government administrators. They should have known that there can never be a school without its five fundamentals, namely pupils, teachers, and attendant facilities as classrooms, desks, and pit-latrines.
It is, therefore, only right that without the requisite classrooms, desks and pit-latrines, the school would not reopen. But the move by some heads of schools to mobilse parents to put up pit-latrines is the right thing to do. Indeed, parents are key in the education of their children and should sacrifice, without any reservation, for better future of their children.
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