S1 selection kicks off amid cheating claims

School heads during the Senior One selection exercise in Lugogo, Kampala, in 2020. PHOTO/MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

What you need to know:

  • The Education ministry has warns headteachers against ring-fencing any admission slot during the exercise that ends tomorrow.
  • Unatu calls upon the line ministry to always intervene in case some pupils are overlooked despite meeting the cutoff points.

As thousands of secondary school headteachers throng UMA grounds Lugogo in Nakawa Division, a Kampala suburb, to participate in today’s selection process for Senior One entrants, stakeholders in the education sector are calling for more transparency.
Dr Dennis Mugimba, the Education ministry spokesperson, led the way yesterday by urging the headteachers not to ring-fence any admission slot during the exercise that ends tomorrow (February 3)
“The ministry doesn’t require schools to preserve slots for the Ministry of Education and Sports. There is nothing like ‘MoES Quota’,” he said referring to the ministry’s acronym. “Headteachers are at liberty to fill all admission slots without any reservation whatsoever … Report any violators.”
Mr Filbert Baguma, the general secretary of the Uganda National Teachers’ Union (Unatu), concurred.

“We shouldn’t deny a chance to those who gave their first choices to these schools and they are within their cut-off points and their quota. Every school has a quota. Either you are supposed to admit 200 or 300, depending on their capacity,” he said, adding: “You should not be tempted to leave a gap for people who will buy places. Be professional and admit students who have met the requirements for your school admission”.
According to Mr Baguma, the Education ministry should intervene in case someone is overlooked despite meeting the cut-off points. He added that such outcomes are “unfair to the learners and to the parents”.
“These things happen whenever there is selection. You find the parent running up and down. Parents crying, but also we don’t rule out the situation where there is crisscrossing,” he said, adding: “You put a choice in school they have admitted you and you are running away going to another school. It is not one way, but there should be a mechanism of following up.”

Suggested changes
Mr Baguma also suggested that there should be a provision for students confirming that they will take up the admissions or not, so that those who had been sold off can come back and take over the vacant places.
The Unatu general secretary was also disheartened to note that there are learners who are selected before the selection process is completed. He further noted that some schools allegedly admitted Senior One students before the Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb) officially released the 2022 Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) results.
“That is how funny it is. We even have schools which are cheating parents. They very well know, if you are in division U. You are not supposed to enrol for Senior One because you will not be registered at Senior Four,” he revealed, adding: “There are private schools that are very aware that at the time of registration for Ordinary Level (O-Level), they will demand for PLE results.  All these are anomalies taking place.”

Mr Baguma noted that between the time when the results were released and now, some secondary schools have allegedly admitted students who failed examinations.
Mr Martin Okiria Obore, the former chairperson of the Secondary School Teachers’ Association, warned parents against dealing with middlemen.
“I am a parent and a headteacher.  I know there are some people who take advantage of some parents who are desperate. They say, ‘I know so and so, give me the money so that I can help you out.’ But the money does not reach the headteacher, Mr Obore said, adding, “I have seen parents who spend the money and at the end of the day they have not got the places and they start talking about headteachers when they gave the money to the middlemen that the headteacher doesn’t even know.”
Unwise decisions

One of the biggest problems headteachers have noted during selection is that many times, candidates select only popular schools and they end up being unselected. Mr Obore said it is always good for students to have an idea of the cutoff points of different schools as they make school choices.
“If the cut-off point of your first choice is higher, the second choice should be lower so that they don’t miss out. We have scenarios where students get disappointed,” he noted, adding, “You find a child who should have been admitted, but he is in a none selected list because he picked popular schools with the same cut off points.”
Brother Augustine Mugabo, the current chairperson of the Secondary School Teachers’ Association, who doubles as the headteacher of St Henry’s College Kitovu, urged his fellow headteachers to give opportunities to learners who are interested in their schools.
“They should be fair. You find that a student with Aggregate 5 or 6 misses a place and somebody with Aggregate 10 gets it,” Brother Mugabo said. 
Mr Fagil Mandy, a senior education consultant, said he was optimistic that the selection process would go on well. He, however, advised school administrators to “follow the normal process of selection.”
Cut-off points

Mr Ismail Mulindwa, the director for basic and secondary education in the Education ministry, told this publication last week that the cut-off points will be determined by an automatic computerised system. He added that it will depend on a learner’s performance to be admitted to a given school.
“As you know, cut-off points usually go up based on performance in a given year. Many schools performed quite well and the majority will find their cut-off points either increased or maintained due to the bigger number of Senior One entrants,” he revealed, adding that he expects many up country schools this time  round  to “maintain [cut-off points] of last year.”

2022 PLE Candidates
According to the 2022 PLE results released last week, 714,702 candidates passed and are eligible to join post-primary institutions compared to 659,910 who were successful the last time.
This means Ugandan secondary schools will have to collectively take in 54,792 more Senior One students than they did the last time.
The selection process, which starts today, will see headteachers of secondary schools make choices from a pool that had 114,617 pupils (14.1 percent) who passed in Division One. The previous year, this number was 81,864—a representation of 11.1 percent. In addition, another 357,999 candidates who passed in Division Two will throw their hats in the ring compared to 334,711 who sat in the 2020 cohort.
Traditional titans like St Mary’s College Kisubi, Gayaza High School, Mt St Mary’s Namagunga, Namilyango College, Kibuli SS and Kings College Budo have in the past years put their cut-off points between Agg 4 for boys and 5 for girls.