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Does your child understand what he learns at school?

By Vision Reporter

Added 24th August 2011 03:00 AM

NINE-year-old James Kigozi wakes up at 5:00am to prepare for school. At 6:00am he sets off and arrives at 7:30am. From then, he is in class until 5:00pm. After school, Kigozi has to brave the heavy traffic jam before reaching home at 7:00pm.

NINE-year-old James Kigozi wakes up at 5:00am to prepare for school. At 6:00am he sets off and arrives at 7:30am. From then, he is in class until 5:00pm. After school, Kigozi has to brave the heavy traffic jam before reaching home at 7:00pm.

By Conan Businge

NINE-year-old James Kigozi wakes up at 5:00am to prepare for school. At 6:00am he sets off and arrives at 7:30am. From then, he is in class until 5:00pm. After school, Kigozi has to brave the heavy traffic jam before reaching home at 7:00pm.

Before he retires to bed, Kigozi has to do his homework. However, despite the long hours spent at school, a learning assessment report shows that children are merely attending school, but learning little.

The report
The Uwezo report, an initiative of the Uganda National NGO Forum, says universal primary schools and private schools are equally not doing well in helping the children acquire the necessary basic skills at the appropriate level.

The report shows that primary education in Uganda is yielding illiterate students, contrary to a study, which has just been completed by the Government.

The same organisation says it is not only Uganda in this region, whose education is being questioned. Another regional Uwezo report, which was released recently, also says there is a learning crisis in Kenya and Tanzania.

“Governments are justifiably proud of their achievements in expanding school enrolments. But they should not hide behind these achievements,” the 2011 Numeracy and Literacy Across Africa report states.

Tanzania and Kenya followed Uganda to start providing free primary education in the East African region. In Uganda, gross enrolment shot from 70% at the start in 1997 to over 120% in 2000. In Tanzania, enrolment grew from 70% to 110% and that of Kenya went up to about 105% in 2003.

The Uwezo East African report argues that the billions of shillings and hours spent on basic education each year by parents, governments and donors can only be considered well-spent when children are learning and are competent at their levels.

In the regional report, Uganda leads in enrolment but falls behind Kenya on fronts like learning, quality of schools and gender equality.

On the general outlook, the East African report says: “The situation in Tanzania is more acute, but results from Uganda and Kenya provide little comfort.”

The Uwezo-Ugandan report says only three out of every 10 (29.7%) pupils from Primary Three to Primary Seven, can read and understand English story text, as well as solve numerical written division sums of Primary Two difficulty.”

This contravenes the Government report, released last month by the National Assessment of Progress in Education. The report says that 72.8% of the pupils in Primary Three had reached the defined competency level in numeracy and 57.6% attained a similar rating in literacy in English.

Basing on its own report, the Government says the majority of the pupils in Primary Three demonstrated that they had acquired the numeracy competences as spelt out in the national curriculum.

But, the Uwezo report, says at least nine out of every 10 (92%) of all children in Primary Three could not read a Primary Two English level story. On the other hand, nine out of 10 children read a Primary Two English level story text.

It adds that overall, at least one of every five (21%) pupils of all Primary Three children sampled across the country could not even recognise letters of the alphabet. Only 7% could read and understand an English text of Primary Two.

Does the school attended affect a child?
The Uwezo report, which was launched last week by the commissioner of primary education, Dr. Daniel Nkaada, adds that the type of school a child attended, whether government-aided or privately owned, had limited influence on the children’s English-reading comprehension abilities.

On numeracy, about one of every five (22%) pupils in Primary Three, according to the report, could not solve numerical written division sums of Primary Two difficulty, correctly.

It adds that, more than one out of every 10 (11%) pupils in Primary Seven could not solve numerical sums of Primary Two difficulty. Literacy and numeracy proficiencies were almost the same for both private and government-aided schools.

Nkaada said the education ministry had not had time to internalise the report.

“We will read through the report and later state our position on their findings. But as of now, we cannot comment on the specifics of the report,” he said.

Can coaching improve a competency?
The same Uganda-Uwezo report also shows that the provision of private tuition (coaching) had minimal influence on the children’s competencies in English reading comprehension and division mathematics in lower primary level.

About 28% of all Primary Three pupils whose parents reported providing coaching to their children could solve numerical written division sums of Primary Two difficulty compared to 20% whose parents were not paying for the same service.

The provision of some form of midday meal, Uwezo says, had a positive influence on children’s competences in English reading and comprehension.

The worst districts in the Uwezo rankings of learning abilities are Amolatar, Kaliro, Bugiri, Kamuli, Tororo, Bukwo, Bududa, Kaberamaido, Pallisa and Mayuge.

The same report also shows that in Uganda Bushenyi, Kampala, Mbarara, Wakiso, Kiruhura Nakaseke, Luwero, Kanungu, surprisingly, , Kalangala, which is an island with few schools and teachers, are the best districts from which one can educate a child because they have the highest ranking in both numeracy and literacy.

The country coordinator of Uwezo-Uganda, Richard Ssewakiryanga, says citizens should not leave the responsibility of educating children to the Government.

“We should all take a responsibility to offer our support to uplift the country’s education. The Government cannot do everything. The faster citizens realise this and take action, the better it will be for our country,” Ssewakiryanga cautions.

“This is the moment to face the crisis squarely, and craft solutions that are not only well-intended, but actually work,” the report cautions.

Does your child understand what he learns at school?

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