Schools tighten Senior Five entry points

Heads of schools prepare for the Senior Five selection exercise at UMA Show Grounds in Kampala on February 26, 2024. PHOTO/ISAAC KASAMANI. 

What you need to know:

  • In the 2023 UCE exams results, a total of 64,782 students passed in Division One, up from 46,667 who passed in the same Division last year. A total of 85,566 students passed in Division Two, compared to 76,745 students who passed in the same Division in 2022. 

Schools on February 26 tightened their Senior Five entry points with the majority attributing the hike to improved performance in the recently released 2023 Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) exams. 

A total of 346,816 students of the 361,695 who turned up for the 2023 UCE exams qualified to join Senior Five. In 2022, a total of 329,939 of 345,695 students passed the UCE exams. 

During a two-day selection exercise that kicked off at the UMA Show Grounds in Kampala yesterday, most top schools in Central and Western Uganda raised their cut-off points and fixed it between Aggregate 10 and 15. 

Schools from eastern and northern regions cut off their admission at Aggregate 35 for both boys and girls. 

Average schools across the regions did not exceed Aggregate 40 while government-owned Universal Secondary Education (USE) schools are admitting all students who can get subject combinations as long as they don’t exceed Aggregate 60.

In the Central region, Gayaza High School, one of the traditional giants, raised their intake from Aggregate 13 last year to 11 this year. 

St Mary’s College Kisubi, another top school, hiked their admission from Aggregate 12 last year to 10 this year, while Nabisunsa Girls School raised theirs from Aggregate 16 to 14. Trinity College Nabbingo is taking up to Aggregate 13, up from 16 last year. 

From western Uganda, Maryhill High School raised her admission points from Aggregate 16 in 2022 to 13 this year. Ntare School, one of the leading boys schools from Mbarara District, tightened their intake from Aggregate 14 to 13, while Immaculate Girls took Aggregate 15, up from 20 last year, with Mbarara High School maintaining Aggregate 17. 

Tororo Girls School from Eastern Uganda hiked their intake from Aggregate 27 to 24, while Jinja College stepped up their intake from Aggregate 26 to 24, with Kiira College Butiki raising theirs from Aggregate 23 last year to 20. 

Busoga College Mwiri is admitting students with up to Aggregate 33. 

Officials from some of the top schools said the high number of students who applied to join also informed the hike in cut off points, given the limited capacity. 

Unlike the average and government USE schools which are admitting up to 400 students from the list presented to them by the government, most of the top schools, especially from central and western regions, are admitting only between 100 and 120 students. 

Ms Flavia Sseruyange, a teacher from Gayaza High School, said they are admitting only 100 students despite receiving 1,300 applications. Relatedly, St Mary’s College Kisubi has also admitted only 100 of the 2,000 students who applied. 

Trinity College Nabingo has admitted 110 students out of over 1,000 applicants. 

Nabisunsa Girls School received 864 applications but admitted only 100 students, while Makerere College School received 5,000 applications but admitted only 180. 

Unlike some top schools from eastern and northern Uganda that are admitting both Science and Arts students at the selection exercise, the majority of schools from central and western Uganda who spoke to Daily Monitor are admitting mainly Science students. 

Dr. Charles Oluka, the deputy head-teacher at St Mary’s College Kisubi, said all the admitted students would be pursuing Sciences.

Ms Sarah Ndagire, the assistant dean of students at Lubiri Secondary School, said the majority of those who were not selected by their school did not attain the required cut-off points. 

“It was because of wrong choices, for example, a student places Lubiri SS as their first choice, but at the same time places three other schools which are in the same band as Lubiri SS. So, when all schools have similar cut-off points which the student fails to score, they find themselves not being selected,” she said. 

Speaking at the selection exercise, the chairperson of the placement committee who doubles as the undersecretary at the Ministry of Education and Sports, Dr Jane Egau asked the schools to conduct the exercise with integrity and fairness. 

“I would like to emphasize that the rationale of this centralized placement exercise is to ensure equality, fairness, and transparency in admissions, especially to government-funded schools. Senior Five placement exercise is a particularly special reason for the reason that secondary schools are admitting learners, some of whom are their old students, having sat UCE in the same schools. It can be challenging when you have to leave out your old students because of the national competition for places,” she said. 

“My appeal to you is to be understanding and considerate while handling requests for special admissions from your former learners and their parents. It is only a testimony that they love the school and please handle them as fairly as possible, if they qualify,” she added. 

The ongoing exercise, she said, aims to attract 870 government-aided secondary schools and 1,172 private secondary schools that offer A’ Level curriculum. 

“We are only placing learners in S5 and we expect to place 236,280 students into secondary schools, both public and private. The remaining 93,659 students will be absorbed in 87 government technical and vocational education training (TVET) institutions that admit O-Level leavers and to over 700 private TVET institutions across the country,” she said. 

In the 2023 UCE exams results, a total of 64,782 students passed in Division One, up from 46,667 who passed in the same Division last year. A total of 85,566 students passed in Division Two, compared to 76,745 students who passed in the same Division in 2022. 

A total of 85,545 students passed in the Third Grade compared to 88,690 students in 2022 while 112,923 scored Fourth Grade as compared to 117,837 in 2022, an indication that fewer students passed in the last transitional grade in 2023, compared to 2022. 

By placing only 236,280 students in Senior Five as announced by Dr Egau, all 2042 secondary schools at the selection exercise are admitting all the 235,897 students who passed in the first three grades in the recently released 2023 UCE exams and an additional 387 students who passed in the Fourth Division. 

The Education and Sports Permanent Secretary, Ms Ketty Lamaro, warned teachers against giving themselves transfers before being approved by the ministry. Ms Lamaro in her speech, read by the Director Basic Education at the Ministry of Education and Sports, Mr Ismail Mulindwa, said, “Unless a teacher has got an official transfer, he or she remains a staff member of that school with all rights and responsibilities. Failure to assign them duty because they applied for transfer results in inefficient use of public service personnel and you the immediate supervisors will be held responsible.” 

Ms Lamaro reminded the schools about the new lower secondary school curriculum, which she said the Uganda National Examination Board (Uneb) will start basing on this year, to assess learners. 

Compiled by Busein Samilu, Sylvia Katushabe, Jane Nafula, Priscilla Maloba, Lydia Felly Akullu, Karim Muyobo, Moses Ndhaye, Mike Sebalu, Ibrahim Khalil Manzil and Shabibah Nakirigya.