By Taha Mohamed
In the first quarter of every year and for several years now, there has been a lot of euphoria pertaining to the performance of different schools in different parts of Uganda.
The competition for better grades at Primary, Secondary and Advanced School levels brings not only joy but at times disappointment; for those with excellent grades are highly exalted and they foresee a very bright future yet those with mediocre grades remain haunted by such an experience and afraid of the future, hence soaked into real mental disappointment!
In my view, being happy or not happy for excellent grades or disappointed for mediocre grades, is losing meaning in today’s Uganda since grades are no longer justified to achieve the right Education objectives as the end result.
Happiness due to excellent grades in Uganda is shot lived and can, therefore, be categorised as mere excitement similar to that generated by intoxication since at most times no skills are uniquely attained or imparted to guarantee one’s bright future!
Surprisingly, Strategic investment in private schools continues to tilt the grade game to their advantage.
These schools have hit the maximum mark of proof in as far as achieving the grades are concerned, so what next?
Uganda has to look into her potentials of evolving the Education system from what it is today, through adoption of holistic and applicable programmes and without deliberate involvement of the private sector, especially at Secondary School level, such an achievement will be hard to attain in the near future!
Interestingly, the Government is routing attempts towards integration of skilling programmes in schools but concentrating on public or Government owned schools yet due to the euphoria earlier indicated above; parents have conceived and wrongly retained the mentality of wishing and actually sending their children to go for trainings that will prepare them for the highly coveted but, hard to find white color jobs, mainly through leading private schools, colleges and universities.
Incentives in terms of tax waivers, deliberate allocation of resources such as land for expansion and general support to local investors in the Education sector will go a long way to accomplish the said skilling programme.
On the contrary, the Government of Uganda did of recent indicate that its withdrawing from supporting private schools, which were earlier selected to supplement the Government in the implementation of the Universal Secondary Education (USE), under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement.
Among the reasons given is that there are no tangible benefits accrued to students on this arrangement, leave alone enriching private school owners due to colossal sums of money remitted by the Ministry of Education and Sports!
I would convincingly suggest that the resources previously allocated to several schools under USE, should be planned to prop-up Education Centres of Excellence in Ugandan local private schools, renowned for their commitment to good performance.
Educational constituencies should be created or “chained-up” for purposes of sharing tools, teaching aids or equipment, laboratories under the supervision of the duly created Education Centres of Excellence.
This will in the long run, override the perception of achieving it all by passing and getting excited after cramming notes, hence creative performance, self-employment and reduced uncertainty after graduation.
For purposes of taming manipulation, corrupt practices and victory of the Education Centres of Excellence arrangement, a strong policy on the selection criteria can be professionally unveiled with clear terms of reference for participation in the implementation of such a project.
The tuition payable in Education Centres of Excellence schools should be partly regulated by the Government for affirmative and the equitable benefit of all; to avoid bureaucratic tendencies, Education Centres of Excellence should retain autonomous rights on transfers, retentions or dismissal of trainers or trainees.
Apparently, as the Economy continues to grow (predominantly in Kampala City and regional towns), there are emerging foreign owned international schools investing in Uganda.
Some of these international schools are largely profit oriented and they are here to cater for the children or pupils from the first class stratum; they target affluent business people, top politicians, diplomats and a few trying-speculative citizens who can afford to enroll their children.
Therefore, the impact of international schools to turn fortunes in a developing country like Uganda is dismal; surprisingly Western Educationists are also castigating the international school’s curriculum looking forward for an overhaul after comparing it to the Chinese hands-on curriculum.
The teaching methods in international schools is ostensibly sophisticated but not tailored at local skills development and since children under such systems are already endowed with affluent backgrounds, whether they hustle in the life of unemployment after school or get employed immediately after school has less negative impact on them in the medium term.
Finally deliberate integration of the skilling programme in private schools will offer a unique practical approach to Education very defiant of perceptions that degrees are mere papers, where the opportunity cost of Education is being questioned and ridiculed by some financially successful illiterates!
The writer is a Financial Consultant