Schools record low turn up on day one

Students report back to school at Kololo Senior Secondary School on February 6, 2023. PHOTO/ ISAAC KASAMANI

What you need to know:

  • Monitor survey exposes the tough economic challenges that parents are going through to take their children to school. Many of the schools our reporters visited revealed a low turn up.

A mini survey around city schools yesterday showed a low turn up of learners for the first term studies.
The turn up was majorly attributed to hard economic times that the parents are going through, making them unable to raise either all or half of the schools fees.  The other major reason was the scraping of exams at the beginning of the term as per the new lower secondary school curriculum.

“I expected students to turn up in bigger numbers than they have done, given the longer period of time they have spent in holidays. I expected them to have prepared enough, have got school fees in time, but this was not the case,” Ms Maria Weraga, the head teacher of City High School in Kampala,  said yesterday.

She estimated the turn up of learners at her school to be 40 percent. Ms Weraga attributed the crisis to lack of school fees and school requirements.

She explained that for one to be allowed into the school premises, the learner should at least have paid a certain a percentage of the school fees.

“Usually some parents are not ready with fees and they know you cannot begin without any fees deposit. Sometimes, it becomes hard for them to report without money so they chose to remain at home,” Ms Weraga explained.

A section of parents, who had not yet paid their children’s fees by yesterday, were seen outside the head teacher’s office as they waited to negotiate their way out.

A female parent, who preferred to remain anonymous, said she was seeking the attention of the head teacher to allow her son in school as she looks for fees that she hopes to get in the next two weeks.

“Things have not been easy. My son is going to Senior Two, but I don’t have school fees and school requirements.  I am here to see the head teacher so that she can allow him to go to class as I look for the money,” she said.

Kololo SS
At Kololo Secondary School, a Universal Secondary School, the story wasn’t any different.
Mr Edward Kanoonya, the head teacher, said although the school allows students to study without paying any school fees being a government school, the turn up was still low, reasoning that most students don’t take the first day of the term reopening seriously.

Mr Kanoonya said about 60 percent of the expected students had reported to school. He was optimistic that the number would increase during the course of the week.

Mr Kanoonya also explained that since the new Lower Secondary Curriculum does not require students to write exams at the begging of the term, this was another factor for the low turn up.

“These exams used to help us have these students report early. Apart from encouraging them to keep doing some revision at home during the holiday,” Mr Kanoonya said.

He added: “The moment they realise that there is no serious activity like writing exams, much as we keep talking, these students will not come on the first day.  We invented beginning of term exams to help students to report to school on time.”

Shimoni PS
At Shimoni Demonstration Primary School, the school administrators revealed that of 600 pupils in the school, about 300 had reported back.

Mr Godfrey Maserejje, an administrator,  said since the school is under UPE, parents are not forced to pay school dues,  but they only don’t take the first reporting day seriously.

Ms Grace Kiboko, the chairperson of Nagulu Go-Down Zone in Nakawa Division,  who had accompanied her grandchildren to East Kololo Primary School, said most pupils haven’t reported because they lack school requirements such as books and pencils because parents have no money.

Ms Goretti Webombesa, the head teacher of East Kololo Primary School,  last evening said by the end of yesterday, only 150 pupils had reported to school.

Mr Yosiya Mwanawabeneene, the deputy head teacher in charge of administration at Police Children School, Kibuli, said the first day at school cannot be used to predict overall enrolment.

“It is still below the average. We hope that by the end of the week, we shall be where we are supposed to be because our population is 1,887, but 30 percent is already back. We don’t need anything, we basically need the children to come to school and the teachers are ready to handle them,” he said

Adding: “They are a bit reluctant probably because others had gone to the villages.’’

Kakungulu Memorial
Ms Sharifa Nampeebwa Busomba, the deputy head teacher in charge of academics at Kakungulu Memorial School, Kibuli, said more than 50 percent of students had reported back.

“The fact is that money is scarce. Parents are really struggling.  Some students have paid, others have paid something.  Our policy here is that students pay what they can afford as long as we have an agreement on how the balance should be paid,” Ms Nampeebwa said.

Ms Nampeebwa advised parents who have not yet been able to raise their children’s fees to talk to the school administrations instead of staying home with the learners until they get money, yet at the end of the day, they have to clear the whole amount.

Ms Doreen Tendo, the assistant administrator at St Agnes Junior School Kampala, said some of the parents had deposited some school fees, but admitted that some of the learners had not yet reported back.
In Mukono, many learners were still stranded at home for lack of school requirements like toilet papers, brooms, and books.

Ms Joyce Namukasa, the deputy head teacher at Mpumu Primary School in Ntenjeru-Kisoga Town Council, said of 370 learners, only 70 had reported on the first day.

“The turn up is so poor and as I was coming to school today, I met several children along the way claiming they have not yet bought school requirements to return to class,”  she said. 

Mr Lawrence Tumusiime, the deputy head teacher at Salama School for the Blind, said 20 learners had reported out of 60 learners.

In Mbale, schools registered low turn up. Mr Moses Buyera, the head teacher of Mbale Secondary School, said only 40 percent of students reported to school on Monday.

The general secretary of the Uganda National Teachers’ Union (Unatu),  Mr Filbert Baguma, described the economic situation in the country as “unfortunate” which he said is biting everybody.

“You have requirements which if added together almost go to half of the schools fees or even more. It becomes very difficult, especially when the parents or guardians have more than one child to take them back to school,” Baguma said.  He urged schools to relax preconditions such as having zero balance or paying a certain percentage before a child can be allowed in school as this will lead to loss of time.

Elsewhere, a number of teachers we spoke to said a number of safeguards had been put in place to mitigate the rampant cases of fire outbreaks in schools. 

The school administrators also revealed that they had put measures in place to ensure that learners are not exposed to homosexuality, a vice that has recently engulfed some institutions.

In Teso Sub-region, a section of government secondary schools have shown commitment in battling isolated cases of homosexuality and lesbianism.

The head teacher of Ngora High School, Mr Eliphaz Opolot, said as a church-founded school, they will stick to their Christian values.

“We cherish our Christian values, anybody who defies the holy gospel teachings and goes for such an evil act will face expulsion,” Mr Opolot said.

He further said to address challenges and concerns of students, they have attached teachers as foster parents where each teacher attends to 20 students’ family meetings to guide and counsel them.

Mr Julius Opaso, the head teacher of Teso College Aloet, said their school values restrains students from indulging in immoral acts which may disrupt them from concentrating in academics. “I don’t want to be quoted on things which don’t happen in my school because we have never registered any case,” he said.

He added: “However, we always enforce school rules and regulations, carry out continuous guidance and counselling by inviting stakeholders like the police, the alumni and also do routine and abrupt roll calls and inspections as a mitigation measure,” Mr Opaso said.

Mr Martin Okiria Obore, the head teacher of Soroti Secondary School, said they will not condone such practices.

In Ntungamo, Mr Joseph Twiine Muganga, the head teacher of Mutuyera High School, said all safety measures against homosexuality and fire outbreaks are in place.

“We have enough fire extinguishers and have trained both students and staff members on how to use fire extinguishers,” he said.

The head teacher of St Kaggwa Boarding Primary school, Mr Selestino Twinomugisha, said: “At school we have guidance and counselling programme every day and we have increased on the number of teachers monitoring dormitories and we also have enough security guards.”

Compiled by Jane Nafula, Sylivia Katushabe, Bill Oketch, George Emuron, Alex Ashaba, Ambrose Musasizi, Michael Woniala, Fred Wambede, Milton Bandhio & Julius Byamukama, Brian A Kesiime & Diphas Kiguli