Sections of the media reported yesterday that the government is set to kick off the construction of secondary schools in more than 300 sub-counties across the country.
During the NRM manifesto week in May this year, the Minister of Education, Ms Janet Museveni, highlighted improvements in infrastructure, enhanced inspection of schools
skills development and support to physical education and sports in the current term.
We appreciate efforts to extend learning intuitions to the sub-county level in a bid to fight illiteracy, which according to the 2014 national census, numbered at 6.3 million people.
This newspaper has on several occasions raised the issue of inadequate infrastructure, long distances to school and poor learning environment as some of the reasons for increased academic failures, especially in rural areas.
According to the 2014 national census, secondary school attendance in Uganda increased from about 1.1 million students in 2002 to about 2.1 million students in 2014, indicating a 47 per cent increase. It could be even higher today.
A 2017 Uganda Bureau of Statistics report says, Uganda requires 40 per cent tertiary enrolment to achieve a middle-income status by 2020 and secondary schools are the ultimate launch pad for this.
The announcement, thus, is good news in itself. For example, it seeks to address goal 4.1 of the Sustainable Development Goals, which says: “By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.”
However, provision of the schools alone will not be enough in attaining meaningful education. We propose that the stakeholders burn the midnight candle and think deeply before spending on such projects. Before we build more schools, we should first ask ourselves why many public schools across the country are in ruins. If we cannot manage the existing ones, how will we muster the skill to run new ones?
Secondly, while building these secondary schools, we need to address the unemployment issue. Are the schools being prepared to offer vocational kind of education or are they tailored for the routine theoretical learning? Shouldn’t we be building more technical schools instead?
Thirdly, we need to pay more attention to teachers’ welfare. A better-remunerated teacher will definitely offer better services. Structures alone will not deliver the much desired quality education. And when all that is in check, we step up the inspection of all educational institutions.
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