Handle underlying causes of teacher absenteeism

Some of the headteachers react as they unpack their smartphones received under the TELA project in Nebbi District on January 25, 2023. 

What you need to know:

The issue: Teacher absenteeism

Our view: As we seek solutions to the problems that plague our education system, let us consider quality of the services provided as a key outcome.

We have reported that the Ministry of Education under a designed system of Teachers Effectiveness and Learners Achievements has equipped head teachers in Nebbi District with smartphones to monitor the performance and absenteeism of teachers in schools.

The system, which is operated on the mobile devices with an android operating system, will ensure teachers are monitored right from their arrival at school.

According to the Nebbi District schools inspector, Mr James Gwoktho, the system, which acts as a supervision and performance management tool, will curb absenteeism of teachers which will increase the performance.

While the system might curb absenteeism, it is not a guarantee that performance of learners will automatically improve as Mr Gwoktho says.

Showing up to the classroom is the first step but for proper learning to take place, a teacher must deliver in a way that adds value to the learners and ensures that comprehension and retention of knowledge actually takes place. Teachers need proper motivation beyond being marked present or absent.  Besides, such systems can be manipulated.

In the story, Mr Gwoktho himself points out that headteachers and teachers can connive and provide doctored data and the Alex Ongieragiu, the head teacher of Kele Primary school in Erussi Sub County decries poor rural electrification as most up country schools aren’t connected to the national grid. This means charging the phones will also be a challenge.

Before purchasing smartphones for the head teachers to monitor teacher attendance and performance, it would be prudent to carry out research on ground and find out what the actual causes of absenteeism are and then draw up solutions based on the findings. If that was done then great but even the solutions should be applicable and feasible with the communities in question.

If the underlying causes of absenteeism are not identified and dealt with conclusively, we might end up with bodies showing up to be marked as present but have no improvement in performance of learners. Showing up to class and actually teaching are two completely different things.

It is very much like certain education institutions where the focus is on the number of first grades the school produces regardless of the methods used to acquire the grades. Usually, the only achievement such learners have is passing exams but are never able to apply anything that was crammed into them to pass the exams. And for higher institutions of learning, many of their students have to be retrained by employers to be of any value to organisations they are employed in.

As we seek solutions to the problems that plague our education system, let us consider quality of the services provided as a key outcome.

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