The recently released admission lists for the five public universities and some private ones reveal an emerging trend of the dominance of private schools over government schools.
City schools like Namugongo Martyrs, St Maryâ€™s college Kitende, Namirembe Hillside and Seeta High have become perennial achievers in national examinations.
In the rural areas, the story is not different. In Bushenyi, for example, Valley College is now a force to reckon with. In Ntungamo, Standard College is dwarfing the big name schools in Aâ€™ level exams.
In the 2008, public universities joint admissions, St Maryâ€™s Kitende had a record 161 students being admitted in the five public universities, posting the highest number among all schools. Uganda Martyrs Secondary followed with 105 students admitted in the five public universities. Thirty eight of the 105 students were admitted for the prestigious bachelor of medicine and surgery at Makerere, Mbarara and Gulu universities.
At Uganda Christian Universityâ€™s, recently concluded bachelor of laws admissions, St Maryâ€™s Kitende and Uganda Martyrs S.S.S got 12 students each, admitted. They became the schools with the highest number of admitted students and yet the admissions were preceded by written and oral interviews.
The big question is: How have private secondary schools become a dominant force in academic performance, many of them being relatively new? While on field work trips in different regions of Uganda, I interact with students, school administrators, teachers in both private and government schools. From the interaction, I bring to the fore the key reasons behind the success stories of private schools.
First, the business-like approach to education by the proprietors of private secondary schools has centered on adopting a results oriented strategy.
One of the main strategies of private schools has been the heavy investment in construction. Physical infrastructure such as classrooms, purchase of equipment and instructional materials have been availed.
The establishment of a good marketing strategy has attracted students to these schools.
In addition, there has been a deliberate effort to vet teachers on recruitment. The vetting is to identify teachers with a proven track record of performance and experience of being a Uganda National Examinations Board setter or examiner.
The good remuneration of full time teachers and a select team of part-time teachers from government schools has ensured that highly motivated and experienced teachers handle the students. The increased contact hours between teachers and students, especially in boarding private schools, has meant that the syllabus is finished early and revision embarked on.
The result has been excellent results by students, many of whom had been rejected by the renowned government schools.
There is more value added to the results of students in private schools than many government schools who admit students with good grades. However, the majority of private schools may not pass the acid test of acceptable professional education standards of teaching the whole person.
Despite failing to train a whole person, private schools are winning more government scholarships at public universities and vacancies at private ones. The onus is on the education ministry and the Government to rethink the support given to schools. This will avert a scenario like the one in the UK where a few â€˜eliteâ€™ state and majority independent schools dwarf the majority state secondary schools in university admissions.
The writer is a lecturer at Uganda Christian University
Private schools outsmart government ones at university