Before independence, colonialists educated Ugandans mainly to have clerks/administrators and health workers. Universal primary/secondary education was not their intention. Up to the ‘70s ‘80s, a primary leaving certificate could make the holder get some kind of employment.
Currently, apart from knowing that a person finished primary school, a primary leaving certificate is useless, especially, with Uganda’s limping Universal Primary Education (UPE) – a good number of the few that finish leave with no literacy or numeracy skills.
The cherished primary and O-Level exams create artificial, unnecessary and dangerous competition among private primary and secondary schools because children have to compete for “good primary and secondary schools” instead of learning – those schools where more than 90 per cent of candidates pass highly. The result of this competition is horrible: Parents pay exorbitant school fees.
But the most worrying impact of these exams is the death of the entire education system in Uganda. When pupils cram to pass exams instead of learning, it marks the end of education. There are “Uganda National Examination Board (Uneb) answers” and that is what is crammed even when the answers are evidently wrong. Why should parents pay heavily for crammed answers instead of learning?
Teachers in the Internet era are no longer the only source of knowledge and Uneb should not suffocate the creativity of young people. The Internet is a more reliable source of knowledge as we embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution. What would happen if PLE is abolished as it serves no purpose?
As education in Uganda is highly commercialised, school owners will invest in more secondary classrooms. That is more money for them. And the numbers are not big.
According to the Saturday Monitor of January 25, 130,000 pupils will not be admitted to Senior One. The government needs to announce when primary exams will be phased out to give time for extra classroom construction. The government can also shift focus from primary to secondary classrooms.
For several generations, real universal education will remain a dream in Uganda. At the end of O-Level, no need for exams, also. After 11 years in school, pupils can choose to join high schools or drop out (with a certificate of completion given by the school) to join vocational or any other institution.
In some countries, students join universities after 10 or 11 years and perform better than Uganda. Those institutions set relevant entry exams for Senior Four leavers.
Somebody joining a nursing school should do exams different from someone joining a vocational school. No need for Uneb exams at O-Level. In many countries, secondary/high school leavers do different entry exams relevant to the institutions they intend to join.