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Think about free nursery education for all

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 issue: Early childhood education

Our view: Early childhood education should not be left to only those who can afford, it should be for all.

A new research report titled: “Lay a Strong Foundation for All Children: Fees as a Discriminatory Barrier to Pre-Primary Education in Uganda” shows that if the government continues to neglect the implementation of free pre-primary education for all children, it will result in lifelong inequalities in the education sector.

In the report released on June 12, human rights defenders indicate that while the government provides free primary and secondary education through Universal Primary Education (UPE) and Universal Secondary Education (USE) programmes, pre-primary education remains in the hands of private investors. This means school fees is unregulated and there are those that change as high as 1,750,000 per term of kindergarten. And because most parent can’t afford the charges, they opt to keep their children at home and enrol them directly in Primary One when they are of age. Unfortunately, this has major demerits that affect the performance of learners when they join primary school.

Human rights defenders in this report, attribute the poor performance of learners to the lack of free kindergarten education in the country. They say children who miss pre-primary school perform worse in primary school compared to those who attend.

It is great that the government provides free primary and secondary school education even with its long list of shortcomings.  Imagine how much better and how much more sense it makes to start from the foundation which is a nursery school. As the human rights defenders rightly point out, early childhood education should not be overlooked otherwise all efforts at the primary and secondary level would be in jeopardy.

While this would mean additional funding from the government, it would also help to resolve some of the reasons why learners drop out at primary level.

Some of the teachers quoted in the report say learners who are enrolled directly in primary school face challenges with socialising, toilet habits, sounds, reading, drawing, paying attention to the teachers, find it hard to adjust to the environment, and need extra support to adapt classroom setting. These impede learning and hinder them from competing favourably with their peers.

Early childhood education should not be left to only those who can afford, it should be for all.  This seems like a real stretch given that even the funds and management of UPE and USE are a struggle but it is worth serious consideration by the powers that be.

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