EVEN with UPE in place, the latest Education Ministry report says the high cost of educational materials, has forced many children out of school. Carol Natukunda reveals the report details.
The â€˜Comprehensive Evaluation of Basic Education in Ugandaâ€™ report reveals that many children drop out of school, due to expensive scholastic materials not provided for under Universal Primary Education (UPE) capitation grant.
Such materials include exercise books, pens, uniforms, building fund, lunch , registration fees, and monthly test fee. The report, was conducted by the Ministryâ€™s Education planning department in partenership with the local government , finance , public service and gender ministries.
An â€˜Education Visionâ€™ survey among parents with children in primary school revealed that they spend between sh70, 000 to sh90, 000 every term for the above expenses. The 2006 Education For All (EFA) monitoring report agrees with this report findings and points out that fees charges remain a major barrier to UPE progress in 89 of the 103 countries. â€œEven when fees are eliminated, other costs for registration, uniform, transport and learning materials remain high, â€ the report says.
Ugandaâ€™s primary school dropout rate has escalated from an annual average of 4.7% in 2002 to 6.1% in 2005. Currently, the drop out rates are calculated basing on pupils who sit exams in term one and term three. If a child is enrolled and sits first term exams but does not appear for third term, itâ€™s concluded that he or she has dropped out of school.
Drop out rate
â€œ2000 to 2003, registered a decline in the drop out rate from 5.0% to 4.7% which shot up to 6.1% in the subsequent years,â€ the report said.
The number of girls dropping out was higher than that of boys. Statistics show that from the net enrolment ratio for boys and girls of 93.01% , 55% of the boys and 54.6% of the girls reached primary four, while 31.2% of boys and 27.7% reached primary seven.
Florence Malinga, the ministryâ€™s commissioner for education planning, said the problem stems from failure to stick to the stipulated school age.
â€œSome parents send underage children to primary one classes and this raises the enrollment numbers. yet later, for unknown reasons, they withdraw the children and the figures reduce.â€ she explained. The ministry recommends six years, as the appropriate age of entry.
The financial status of the household, from which the child comes also contributed. Those whose parents afforded scholastic materials were the ones who remained in school.
The parentâ€™s attitude towards education also mattered. Some illiterate parents did not value education and discouraged the children. â€œSomeone sends the children to school without uniform or food, and thinks we should provide the items because of â€˜boona basomeâ€™(Education for all) The grant only caters for textbooks, chalk, blackboard, co-curricular activities and shs700 per pupil per month, â€ observed one head teacher at the just concluded national stakeholdersâ€™ conference in Kampala.
The communities surrounding particular schools were affecting the drop out rate. Many schools are located in urban slums, which are conducive to effective learning.
The nature of school administration from which the child dropped was cited. It was noted that the teachersâ€™ motivation determined their attitude towards teaching and teaching methods. This affected childrenâ€™s urge to continue with studies.
The report also revealed that the number of repeaters in UPE schools had increased from 635,021 in 2002 to 1,017,573 in 2005. Statistics show that repetition rates for boys and girls are at 13.6% and 13.2 respectively. The education minister, Namirembe Bitamazire said constant repetition was wastage of resources. The World Bank estimates that repetition costs Uganda sh5b a year.
The report also attributed the repetition trend to: sudden increase in the number of pupils in primary schools due to UPE which increased the pupil-teacher ratio, poor academic background of some teachers, use of inappropriate teaching methods, shortage of instructional materials, inadequate classroom space and irregular inspection and supervision.
â€œThe large class sizes made it impossible to teach reading skills which require individual attention. Homework was generally not being assigned because of the heavy workloads and if given, were not marked,â€ the report says.
With the high rate of repetition and drop out, it is feared that sufficient literacy and numeracy levels may not be achieved. The defined levels of competency in numeracy is 41% and 33% for primary three and six respectively while in literacy, it is 38% of primary three and 30% in primary six. This impacts on the qaulity of UPE graduands.
According to EFA report, school dues can be more affordable if the costs for educational materials are removed. Providing free or cheap transport and school meals is a powerful incentive for parents to send their children (especially daughters) to school. Malinga said a law to ensure compulsory primary schooling was in the offing.
For effective management and teaching, all primary school head teachers will sign performance contracts, committing them to deliver accordingly.
To improve school attendance, the ministry has introduced standard school registers. Daily roll calls are mandatory.
According to the commissioner for primary education, Sam Onek, the ministry has commissioned a study to investigate the causes of irregular attendance and dropout rate in primary schools. The study will get views from various stakeholders on possible remedies to these problems.
A random survey among the teachers collected the following views:
One teacher said failure for capitation grants to arrive on time, means schools go without chalk and wall charts and therefore no teaching. A headmaster suggested that there should be a UPE advocacy campaign to sensitise parents, community and schools on the value of education. Another teacher advised that parents should explain to children the value of education to enable them to develop positive attitudes for effectitive learning.
Extra costs increase UPE dropout rate