More pupils can’t read – report

Pupils of Nakasero Primary School in Kampala attend a lesson in 2019. In terms of pupil performance by region, the central region is far in the lead. PHOTO/JOSEPH KIGGUNDU

What you need to know:

  • Most affected are learners from eastern and northern parts of the country.

The number of primary school children who cannot read has increased as a result of the prolonged closure of schools in the country to combat the spread of Covid-19, the new Uwezo report has revealed.
Most affected are learners from eastern and northern parts of the country.

According to the 2021 Uwezo National Learning Assessment report, the overall proportions of children who are still at the ‘non-reader’ stage (those who could not read or sound out letters of the alphabet) doubled from 6.2 percent in 2018 to 11.6 percent in 2021.
For Primary Three pupils, the proportion of non-readers increased from 12.7 percent in 2018 to 25.1 percent in 2021, while the percentage of children aged eight years increased from 32.8 percent to 50.7 percent.

English reading
“Competence in English reading and numeracy by age in general reduced. The findings suggest that the learning by younger children has been delayed more by the pandemic and school closures than that of older children. This pattern applies both to reading in English and to numeracy,” the report read in part.
Similarly, the percentage of those who were non-numerate increased from 22.4 percent in 2018 to 31.3 percent in 2021.
In terms of performance by region, the central region is far in the lead, followed by the western in second position and the eastern and northern regions having similar and lower outcomes.

Also, 58.5 percent of males and 62 percent of females aged between four and 16 in the central region were able to read words in English compared to 31.1 percent males and 35 percent females of the same age in the eastern region.
The report, which was released in Kampala on Tuesday, shows that 42 percent male and 47 percent female in western region were able to read, while 31 percent male and 30 percent female in the northern region could read words in English.
In an interview with the Daily Monitor  yesterday, the Uwezo executive director, Ms Mary Nakabugo, attributed the poor performance of the northern and eastern region learners to the high pupil - teacher ratio, now standing at 65:1, poor infrastructure and high poverty levels in these two regions.

“Lessons under tree shades can be taught successfully but making them a way of life is unfair to all concerned children, teachers and school managers. The government must live up to its responsibility to provide sufficient primary school classrooms throughout Uganda,” Ms Nakabugo said.
“As our school survey shows, the staffing of government-aided primary schools was insufficient in quantity before the pandemic and had been in decline for several years. Certification and appointments must now be high priorities,” she added.

She appealed to the teachers to help learners who could not recognise any word in the alphabet as opposed to only concentrating on the curriculum.
The key findings indicate that some learners did not return to class when schools reopened in a phased manner after the first lockdown of March 2020.
The reasons that were most frequently given were fears of contracting Covid-19 and financial contraints.
The findings indicate that of the surveyed 867 children, whose schools had reopened but did not return to school, 47.5 percent attributed it to the fear of Covid-19 and 14 percent indicated that their schools were charging them too much money.

Meanwhile, the report further indicates that the pandemic aggravated an overage problem where 39 percent  of Primary One children surveyed in August 2021 were aged eight years old, compared to 33 percent  in 2018. Uwezo notes that the right age for Primary One is six years.
The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, Ms Ketty Lamaro, yesterday said she had neither seen nor received a copy of the finding. She promised to revert once she gets one.

 At the other end of the achievement range, the proportions of children aged between  eight and 10, who had achieved Primary Two competence, were slightly lower in 2021, both for English reading and for numeracy.
Older children aged between 12 and 14 showed some improvement in basic skills. 
The proportions with Primary Two competence were consistently higher, both for English reading and for numeracy.
For instance, in Primary Seven, the rate of full competence for the whole set of grades rose from 32.5 percent to 39.5 percent.