While at Ntare School in Mbarara District, Eng. Bernard Kisembo says his then head teacher, Brian Remmer, had a great impact in his academic life.
“He was very inspirational and would encourage us,” he said, adding that Mr Remmer inculcated among his students the culture of teamwork that made them excel.
Like Eng. Kisembo, nearly all the top performers of previous years have named at least one teacher that they say played a significant role in their academic development.
However, the life of a teacher provides the biggest paradox of the education system; they spend their most productive years equipping their students with knowledge, which they often use to develop better careers, yet the teachers remain glued to the same life situation for years on end.
A 2002 World Bank report on the education sector says Uganda teachers are relatively well-qualified compared to the rest of Africa, with 29 per cent of those in secondary school having at least a graduate degree, and two per cent having post graduate degrees of some kind.
The report said of the remaining 71 per cent, about 96 per cent had received secondary education.
“This means that the majority of secondary school teachers (95 per cent) had at least secondary education themselves. The most common qualification was that of A-Level education with certificate or diploma in education. Over 50 per cent of the teachers fell into this category, that is, “Grade V” teachers. Less than 5 per cent have a below A-Level education,” said the report.
While studies show that they are reasonably qualified, Ugandan teachers are – by the education ministry’s own admission – poorly paid. But, according to the line Minister Namirembe Bitamazire, the government cannot change the status quo just yet.
“We are taking note of the concern on increasing teachers’ salaries,” she told participants at the sixth education sector review, planning and budgeting workshop early this week. “I believe the government will do something about it — but not now.”
Primary teachers are paid Shs200,000 monthly while those in secondary receive Shs300,000 - Shs450,000 depending on education levels.
With teachers receiving peanuts, teaching has become a sort of pariah profession.
According to a 2008 report, the annual outputs of newly-qualified teachers from the primary teachers colleges have fluctuated in recent years.
The report says annual teacher outputs, which had risen from 3,386 in 1989 to 11,162 in 1999, had drastically fallen to 6,814 by 2002.
However, the number of children enrolled in primary school over the last 15 years has risen from 3.4 million in 1996 to over seven million.
Statistics also show that the teacher training sector produces an average of 10,000 secondary school teachers annually, with about 7,000 qualifying with degrees.
According to the latest government statistics, the secondary sector needs 40,759 teachers – with the number expected to grow as more children go to school.
The World Bank estimates that by 2012, the total secondary school enrolment will reach about 1.5 million.
The government, in its draft master development plan, Vision 2035, intends to reduce the teacher/pupil ratio in primary schools from 54:1 currently to 40:1 in 2035 and maintain the ratio in secondary schools at 20:1 by 2035.
With the government foreseeing a situation where it is likely to struggle to just maintain efficiency over the next 30 years, it is likely to take even longer before the government finally starts addressing quality issues.