By Carol Natukunda
Uganda is one of the 126 countries around the world likely to achieve gender parity in primary schools by 2015.
The just released Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring report shows that over the last decade, Uganda made a 95% progress in addressing the gender gaps at primary level.
According to the Education Ministry statistics, the net enrollment for girls at primary level increased from 82.3% in 2000 to 97.2% as today, while that of boys moved from 88.8% for boys in 2000 to 96.3%. Gender parity has grown from 48:51 (girls to boys) in 2000 to 50:51 today.
The EFA report notes that the equal enrolment ratios for girls and boys is the first step forward in improving the quality of education. “A schooling environment that is free of discrimination and provides equal opportunities for boys and girls helps children to realize their potential.
“The starting points towards gender equality include making sure the school environment is safe, improving facilities to provide, for example, separate latrines for girls and boys, training teachers in gender sensitivity, achieving gender balance among teachers and rewriting curricula and textbooks to remove gender stereotypes,” the report stresses.
Commenting on the report, some of Uganda’s education experts lauded the government for putting in place policies such as the affirmative action to enable the girls compete. However, they noted that more needed to be done.
“Every week of the month one or two girls have to stay away from school when they are menstruating. This means each girl has to stay away from school for three weeks in the 12 weeks they have to be in school. A girl absent from school due to menstruation for four days in 28 days a month loses 13 learning days equivalent to two weeks of learning in every school term,” said Ashiraf Ssebandeke an education enthusiast.
Rosemary Sseninde, the Wakiso district woman Member of Parliament, said there is need to look at the quality of education rather than quantity. “If we are seeing both sexes are at par, how many of those can read and write?” she asked.
Jessica Alupo, the Education Minister was, however, optimistic. “I think we must appreciate that we are making strides. We are determined to address all the challenges, like improving facilities, access to scholastic materials and ensuring that classrooms are not overcrowded,” said Alupo.
This Report titled “Teaching and Learning; achieving quality for all” was published by UNESCO. It provides a timely update on progress that countries are making towards the global education goals that were agreed in 2000.
It shows that fifty-seven million children are still failing to learn, simply because they are not in school. Access is not the only crisis – poor quality is holding back learning even for those who make it to school. One third of primary school age children are not learning the basics, whether they have been to school or not.
To reach the set targets, the report calls on Governments to redouble efforts to provide learning to all who face disadvantages – whether from poverty, gender, where they live or other factors.
Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO stressed: “As we advance towards 2015 and set a new agenda to follow, all governments must invest in education as an accelerator of inclusive development.
Educate mothers, and you empower women and save children’s lives. Educate communities, and you transform societies and grow economies.”