Uncovering gaps in early child education

Children play during the national play day celebrations at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds in Kampala on April 30. PHOTO | FRANK BAGUMA

What you need to know:

  • The Ministry of Education has on several occasions directed nursery/kindergarten schools to stop teaching nursery children at midday following numerous complaints that the pupils were over staying at schools.

Churning out ‘incompetent’ half trained teachers, absence of functioning curriculum and lack of a uniform teaching framework was yesterday described as some of the major gaps hindering the growth of Early Childhood Education and Development (ECED).

The Ministry of Education has on several occasions directed nursery/kindergarten schools to stop teaching nursery children at midday following numerous complaints that the pupils were over staying at schools.

Much as education experts agreed with this directive, some say the time at which learners are released is informed by the parents, especially those who return late from work.

Government in December 2018, launched the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) policy, which was intended to provide interventions aimed at scaling up access to affordable quality ECCE services, streamline and standardise the management and financing of quality ECCE delivery; and create stakeholder awareness and appreciation of the importance of ECCE.

This policy aimed at improving equitable access to quality, inclusive and sustainable ECCE services for children in Uganda; strengthen the structures and systems for the standardisation and management of ECCE service delivery.

In March last year, the government revealed plans to close more than 20,000 kindergarten schools that were allegedly operating illegally. The Education ministry said then that there were 28,208 kindergarten schools with only 4,123 registered by government.

Mr Hasadu Kirabira, the chairperson of the National Private Education Institution Association (NPEIA), said: “There are no functioning teaching frameworks for nursery like how it is for other levels of education. Government needs to develop the learning frameworks because other issues can be handled.”

The mushrooming kindergarten schools, he added, are also to blame for the poor quality of education being offered.

“Nursery teachers should be certified and also certify the institution they are trained from because right now every failure starts teaching nursery yet this is the foundation of these children’s learning,” he said.

Different universities including Uganda Martyrs-Nkonzi, Kyambogo and Kampala International rolled out degrees in Early Childhood Learning to effect that policy directive.

Victoria University and other institutions of higher learning have introduced courses targeting early childhood teachers at a bachelor level.  Most teachers who teach the nursery section are diploma and certificate holders.

Speaking to Daily Monitor yesterday, the Vice Chancellor of Victoria University, Dr Lawrence Muganga, said the country lacks a uniform framework on how childhood experts can be trained.

According to Dr Muganga, there are also few institutions teaching early childhood programmes, yet the population of the country keeps growing.

“People are getting married each and every day and the outcome of those marriages are children. This means we are going to have a huge number of children born. This and the existing gaps in early childhood education compelled Victoria University to start this programme to arrest the burden as early as possible,” Dr Muganga said.

 “There are many people teaching in pre-school and some working with children in public and private organisations without adequate skills. We are giving pre-primary teachers skills to compete in the job market. The teachers’ policy also requires all teachers to have degrees.  We, however, don’t have the government framework to guide us to train early childhood experts so each institution does what they deem important. This should be formulated by the government to have our children trained,” he added.

A senior lecturer of Early Childhood Development at Uganda Martyrs University –Nkozi,  Ms Robinah Namuyaba, said they are equipping their students with more than just course units.

“We ensure that we teach students to first of all understand that they are dealing with young children who must be handled with maximum care. We teach them to understand the environment they are working in, each school has its own policies,” Ms Namuyaba  said.

She added: “We emphasise on the play way teaching method where these children must be engaged in co-curricular activities, ensure they observe all children to understand them, develop instructional materials, identify children with special needs and help them in a special way.”

Meanwhile, Ms Namuyaba also suggested that government comes up with a curriculum for the children in nursery.


 Experts define a nursery school teacher as a professional teacher who provides an emotional, physical and moral foundation for nurturing the development of unique talents of children aged one to six years in preparation for subsequent levels of education.

Mr Filbert Bates Baguma, the secretary general of the Uganda National Teachers Union (Unatu) said a nursery teacher even requires more qualification than other teachers.

“If a doctor who treats young children is qualified, why do the public think that nursery teachers should not be? These people handle the foundation of the child so they should be in position to teach these children very well,” he said.

He added: “These are young children whose brain is not yet ready to accommodate a lot. That is why there should be strict regulations on what time they report and leave because this business of loading children in buses at 4am is bad and psychologically affects them,” he said.

Educationists have raised concerns about access, quality, and the government’s failure to provide early childhood education in UPE schools.

Dr Mary Goretti Nakabugo, the executive director of Uwezo Uganda, said all early childhood education centres are privately-owned, which means only those who can afford them can benefit.