By Conan Businge and Chris Kiwawulo
A big number of pupils who join primary education do not reach secondary school, the director of the Population Secretariat has revealed.
Dr. Charles Zirarema says about â€œ1.5 million pupils never make it to secondary school every year.â€
Uganda still has the highest school dropout rate in East Africa, according to a 2010 report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
Kenya has a lower dropout rate compared to Uganda, but higher than that of Tanzania.
A follow-up of every 100 pupils who joined Primary One in 1999 showed that only 25% reached Primary Seven in 2006. In Kenya, 84% pupils reached Primary Seven. Tanzania stood at 81% and Rwanda at 74%.
Zirarema said there is a low transition rate to secondary in Uganda which has to be improved for the betterment of the countryâ€™s human resource.
He was speaking at the launch of the National Population Policy Action Plan (NPPAP) at the Statistics House on Friday. Planning state minister Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu launched the plan.
Data from the education ministry shows that school dropouts in the country are higher at the primary level than at secondary level.
Lack of interest, pregnancy, early marriages, hidden costs at school and family responsibilities have driven thousands out of school.
The UNESCO report explains that in some cases, the legislation eliminating fees has been partially implemented.
But the Government started free primary and secondary education which is gradually reducing the number of school drop-outs.
â€œWe need to find out where the rest of the children went. We should find ways of retaining all enrolled children from primary to secondary schools, especially the girl-child, if we are to improve reproductive health and social wellbeing,â€ Zirarema said.
The new policy will guide the effective implementation of the 2008 National Population Policy and contribute to the realisation of Ugandaâ€™s vision on sustainable human development through ensuring a sustainable, quality and productive population.
Kamuntu said keeping children, especially girls beyond primary level, would reduce the high teenage pregnancies, which are as high as 25%, as well as help them make informed decisions about contraceptive use and child spacing.
Uganda has a low contraceptive use of 23% and low child spacing, with many mothers conceiving when their babies are less than 24 months.