Education Ministry launches learner tracking system

Monday October 11 2021
educpix

Officials in the Ministry of Education say this system is what has been lacking in the streamlining of the education sector. PHOTO/FILE

By Godfrey Lugaaju

Ali Mugenyi, a school headmaster in Ngoma, Nkoni in Lwengo District says he has always struggled with keeping the different paperwork detailing school operations. 

In addition to keeping track of all paperwork, Mugenyi says he spends a lot of money in printing documents some which end up damaged by rodents. He says the different services ranging from school registration, UNEB registration and tracking of learners’ progress take a lot of time when done manually.

Mugenyi is one of the many school heads that have for long grappled with the traditional way of documentation in schools. 

His will be among the many institutions that are set to benefit as the Ministry of Education and Sports is set to roll out a new system for management of learners’  information in the country’s education institutions from primary to university level.

The system dubbed Education Management Information System (EMIS), which is being procured for the education sector through the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance under its National ICT Initiatives Support Programme (NIISP) will help address more of these concerns.

The EMIS tracker is expected to integrate all data and information about learners in the education and sports sector making it available to various stakeholders at various levels of decision making.

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Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development Permanent Secretary Mr Ramathan Ggoobi who chaired the unveiling says they are supporting the development of EMIS and other related tools such as Teacher Effectiveness and Learners Achievement (TELA) system to improve education quality in the country.

He explains that the Finance Ministry is going to finance the roll out of these systems as well as other digital platforms intended to automate public services to achieve efficiency, transparency and accountability.

Mr David Mushabe, the Executive Director SMS ONE Ltd, a consultant for the software says EMIS will address the challenges faced by the Education Ministry during data collection, processing and analysis.

Mr Mushabe explains that previously, the government collected information from schools manually but EMIS will help digitalise data from pre-school to secondary, tertiary and non-tertiary institutions.

“In 2015 we developed the UNEB system that they currently use to handle registration countrywide. We are building on this experience to come up with this one. The system will analyse information and sieve it to what is required for budgeting purposes since each school has a user account,” he says.

He says EMIS had an older system that had not been updated in a very long time. “The system had no source code in place or user manuals which would have been helpful in upgrading the system,” he adds.

The new EMIS software will be online and accessible to all stakeholders including District Education Officers, School Inspectors, Chief Administrative Officers and Resident District Commissioners.

Mr Moses Watasa, the Commissioner for Information in the ICT Ministry noted that the system is what has been lacking in streamlining the education sector.

“Automation is the present and future. So, this (EMIS) is a system that this country has been lacking and we are going to support all efforts to have it fully entrenched,” he said.

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For long, the Education Ministry has grappled with ghost learners but with this new platform, learners will have the Learner Identification Number linked to their parents or guardians’ National Identification Number since most of them do not have national identification cards. This is intended to prevent  forging of information.

EMIS will have a web portal which schools will access to create their EMIS user accounts and update data about their learners, teaching and non-teaching staff, infrastructure and facilities including physical education and sports.

The system will also track learners’ transfers from one school to another and collect information on enrolment on a termly basis and attendance.

Mushabe explains that for the first time, the ministry will have organised information for all learners in the country. 

“It is also going to eliminate ghost workers. Since everything to do with the school will be online, it will save on costs from both the government and schools and also improve transparency,” he says.

Mr David Sengendo, the head teacher Buganda Road Primary School notes that schools have always had unreliable information about learner numbers in schools which made it hard to tell the actual enrolment.

He shares that the ministry will now be able to know the dropout rate and why. 

It will also help in school management such as the actual number of teachers in the school, qualifications and resources allocation for schools.  

“The ministry of education did not have proper systems of verification but relied on information given by head teachers. However, with EMIS, all details about a particular school are there and any alteration made will be  known since every child will have a unique number,” he notes.

He adds: “The head teacher will induct parents at the school level since there should be an option in the system where parents can monitor the performance of their children. It will sort out a number of information gaps that have existed for a long time. Every stakeholder should be inducted on how this platform works.”

Capacity

Once fully implemented, the new EMIS will handle records of close to 15 million learners from more than 48,000 education institutions across Uganda. The expected rollout of the system is said to be dependent on the re-opening of schools, which is next year.

New schools wishing to submit applications for either EMIS number, license or registration certificate for their institutions, will do so through the system. Stakeholders have welcomed the new system because they say manual registration and collection of data has been a tedious and long process. With the new EMIS, both the application and renewal processes will just be a click away. 

Challenges

The fear of system accessibility since most schools lack internet connectivity and computers remains a fundamental challenge. 

However, with the Finance Ministry getting heavily involved in the implementation and rollout of EMIS, there is a possibility of raising funds to facilitate some schools and local governments in acquiring gadgets to use for EMIS activities.

EMIS will also support an offline mode implying that schools can use the software to register learners and export the data to be uploaded online in places where they can access the internet.

According to Sengendo, given the low internet coverage in most Ugandan schools especially in the rural areas, there will be need for an IT infrastructure in schools to manage the system.

“There has to be facilitation for procurement of data, technical personnel who will manage the system for it to be effective in schools,” says Sengendo. 

Other systems

Ggoobi shares that the Finance Ministry has also financed the rollout of the Health Management Information System (HMIS) as an Integrated Intelligent Computer System (IICS) that is going to trace government procured medicines and other health supplies from National Medical Stores to the patient as well as attendance of health workers.

The Electronic government procuring (e-GP) is also going to be rolled out after a successful pilot in particular entities.

“These are going to help us to effectively monitor public servants and also trace transactions in a way almost similar to how a WhatsApp group works. That is the transparency we want to achieve with Egp, EMIS, TELA, HMIS among other e-government systems we are going to adopt,” he says.




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