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Excellence: An uphill task for rural schools

By Vision Reporter

Added 16th January 2005 03:00 AM

THE disparity in performance between rural and urban schools in last year’s Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) has corroborated UNEB’s findings that the proficiency level of children, who attend school in town is higher than those in villages.

THE disparity in performance between rural and urban schools in last year’s Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) has corroborated UNEB’s findings that the proficiency level of children, who attend school in town is higher than those in villages.

By Fortunate Ahimbisibwe
and Joyce Namutebi

THE disparity in performance between rural and urban schools in last year’s Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) has corroborated UNEB’s findings that the proficiency level of children, who attend school in town is higher than those in villages.
The results showed the percentage failures in districts like Kapchorwa as high as 43.5%, Apac (30%), Iganga(35.1%), Mubende (38.9), Bundibugyo (41%), Rakai (32%), Kayunga (29%) and Sironko (38.9%) as opposed to Kampala’s 5.4%.
The statistics also indicate many of the rural candidates passed in Division Two, Three and Four.
A research by the Network of Enterprising Educational Ventures (NEEV) on pedagogical practices and learning achievement has come up with characteristics displayed by high achieving schools, which are also demonstrated in the urban schools, but lacking in rural areas or low achieving schools as NEEV put it.
The studies found that the achievement levels were higher in schools, whose teachers appreciate rather than stifle pupils’ activities, where pupils are allowed oral expressions, where teachers regularly check tasks assigned to pupils and where there is joyful interaction between the teachers and the learners. Urban teachers tend to display these characteristics more than rural schools.
So, while the best candidates in the country’s leading schools in Kampala and its environs scored aggregate four in the four examinable subjects in PLE, the top candidates in some upcountry districts had as high as aggregate 10.
This disparity calls for emergency intervention if the much-cherished government policy of Universal Primary Education is to make meaning to all, no matter, where they sit examination.
Upcountry districts like Nakapiripirit, Soroti, Moroto, Moyo, Bundibugyo, Kamwenge, Katakwi, Kiboga, Kabale and Kaberamaido, still have a long way to go if their candidates are to favourably compete for admission with the leading schools in the country.
Candidates from the central region will end up dominating the best schools in the country. In the long run, a candidate must be in an urban setting in order to join a good school. Those who sit in rural schools would continue to be doomed.
Education minister, Namirembe Bitamazire concedes schools in urban settings continue to perform better than rural areas. She says studies have indicated that there is more learning time in urban areas than rural areas.” Bitamazire says children in urban schools are exposed and many of them can attend nursery school.
Bitamazire’s observation is consistent with the National Assessment of Progress in Education findings that learning achievements tend to be higher among pupils, who attend kindergartens, children, whose parents are educated and children, who use their mother tongue and English at home.
The findings recently presented at a stakeholders’ workshop by Sylvia Acana, the in-charge of research at UNEB, said factors, which correlated positively with pupils’ achievements also included professional qualification of teachers, monthly meetings by the teachers to plan teaching, monthly rather than weekly, bi-weekly or termly tests and joint preparation of schemes of work by the teachers. School visitations and parent’s involvement in supervising homework are also cited as useful in enhancing a child’s performance. How many of our rural parents and teachers do the above. Bitamazire, elevated to full minister in last week’s cabinet shake up, vowed to crack the whip on absentee headteachers, teachers and pupils in the rural areas.
“Efforts must be made to bridge this divide. I call on all stakeholders and lovers of education to provide quality education for all, regardless of location,” Bitamazire said.
One of the ways the ministry plans to address such disparities is by shifting its focus from mere enrollment to attendance. The ministry is to enforce the policy of class registers in schools.
Bitamazire says emphasis will also be put on setting up early childhood education centres in rural areas so that children there can also catch up with the rest. Kindergartens are currently urban-based. UNEB statistics showed the majority of the 81,391 candidates, who failed, were from rural areas.
The disparity does not only end at a national level. Even in the urban centres, there is a gap between private and government-owned schools.
There is also a gap between the performance of boys and girls. Of the 81,393 candidates, who failed, 45,393 were girls.
In Kampala, the private schools dominated the list of top candidates. This could be the result of large classes as a result of UPE compared to the smaller classes in private schools. Government schools such as Buganda Road Primary School, Nakasero Primary School, Bat Valley are slowly being phased out of the academic giants’ list.
However, outside the central region, government schools swept the top five positions in many districts. Although the literacy rates have improved, the issue of quality education and retention continue to be serious challenges.
Ends

Excellence: An uphill task for rural schools

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