Catholic Church tables 10 education reform demands

Left to right: Uganda Episcopal Conference (UEC) education commission chairperson Bishop Raphael Wokorach,  UEC vice chairperson Bishop Linus Sanctus and the chairperson of the Education Policy Review Commission, Col (rtd) Amanya Mushega, during a press briefing at the UEC offices in Nsambya, Kampala yesterday. PHOTO / ISAAC KASAMANI

What you need to know:

  • The church also wants the government to cap tuition, pay equal salaries, especially to secondary school teachers, standardise curriculum and make pre-primary education mandatory.

The Catholic Church has demanded that the government increase both capitation grants and research funding, and make Christian Religious Education (CRE) compulsory in church-founded schools.

The church also wants the government to cap tuition, pay equal salaries, especially to secondary school teachers, standardise curriculum and make pre-primary education mandatory.

It also suggested that in-service teachers, who attain additional qualifications, become eligible for automatic promotion.

The Executive Secretary for Education at Uganda Episcopal Conference, the apex in-country body for Catholic leaders, in a presentation to the Amanya Mushega-led Education Policy Review Commission in Kampala yesterday, submitted that the government should meet teaching practice expenses at both public and private universities.

Rev Fr Ronald Reagan Okello argued that the teaching of CRE, which is compulsory in Senior One and Two and an elective for candidates and semi-candidates, is important to impart Christian values and integrity and rehabilitate the morals of Ugandans.

Catholics followed by Anglicans are the majority in Uganda, according to the 2014 census, and the two religious denominations own many leading educational and health institutions.

Data from the Catholic Secretariat shows that the church owns 6,700 schools across Uganda, 603 of them secondary schools.

These include Mt Saint Mary’s Namagunga, Namilyango College School, St Joseph’s Girls Secondary School Nsambya, St Joseph’s College Ombaci, Uganda Martyrs Secondary School Namugongo, St Henry’s College Kitovu and Immaculate Heart Girls’ School, among others.

Rev Fr Okello argued that the teaching of CRE will help shape early an individual’s conscience and character and save the country from pervasive challenges of homosexuality, drug abuse, alcoholism and teenage pregnancies.

“If our education is to offer holistic formation of a human person to a great extent, we recommend that CRE be taught up to Senior Four and some exception be allowed in terms of the number of languages studied,” he said.

He added: “The Catholic Church has 23 minor seminaries across the country. They are affected by [the threshold of] maximum eight subjects to be registered for at Uganda Certificate of Education (O-Level) examinations, which limits the students to drop either CRE or Latin [yet these] are crucial aspects of their formation and language of the Church.”

The Education Review Commission chairman, Mr Mushega, said they compiled a range of views from various stakeholders including Muslim and Anglican leaders.

The public presentations will be collated and synthesised to generate a “government white paper” as a basis for discussion on what needs to change, and how, with Uganda’s formal education.

Despite public outcry for substantive reforms to the education sector, including calls to scale back theoretical learning, the government has done little to improve the sector.

Critics say the changes so far made are not enough to place the country on a path to practical skill development across different tiers of education.

Twaweza Uganda, a civil society group advancing citizens’ agency role and government’s responsiveness, and which conducted multiple researches on education in East Africa, proposed that primary education in Uganda be reduced from seven to six years.

The organisation in a previous investigation found that upper primary pupils could not read or work out assignments for lower classes, leading to target quality not just quantity under Universal Primary Education (UPE) scheme introduced in 1997.

At yesterday’s interface at the Catholic Secretariat in Nsambya, Kampala, Rev Fr Okello said: “Universities in the country are characterised by high tuition fees, poor infrastructure, low funding and staffing levels and low pay for lecturers”.

“This must be addressed by the government to enable our universities to be at par with those in the region,” he said.

The Lira Diocese Bishop, Rt Rev Sanctus Lino Wanok, warned that most school proprietors are motivated by profits rather than delivering holistic education and asked the government to curb greed and boundless commercialisation of education.

The negative impact of commercialised education has been articulated in previous government reports.

In a book titled Scholars in the Marketplace, Prof Mahmood Mamdani warned that the proliferation of courses and opening up of, especially Makerere University for paying students had diluted the quality of teaching and learning at higher levels.

The Education Review Commission was launched by Education minister Janet Museveni in May, last year.

The team was tasked to conduct a rapid assessment of the current education system by interfacing with citizens and undertake an in-depth analysis of the 1992 Education Policy so as to make recommendations to inform a new “government white paper” on Education for Cabinet consideration.

CATHOLIC CHURCH PROPOSALS

• Automatic promotion for in-service teachers that upgrade.

• Re-train and skill teachers at all levels.

• Govt finance teaching practice at public and private universities.

• Make Christian Religious Education (CRE) compulsory in O-Level.

• Standardise curriculum for pre-primary education

• Make nursery education mandatory.

• Increase capitation grants

• Increase research funding.

• Provide equal pay for especially all secondary school teachers.

• Cap tuition and apply brakes on commercialised education

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