SIR â€” With the introduction of UPE, pupilsâ€™ enrolment has risen from about 3 million in 1997 to 7.2 million in 2005 but quality education continues to elude both policy makers and implementers.
Children wake up at 6:00am and walk long distances to school. For most schools classes do not begin until 9:00am and some schools even close at 3:00pm. It must be noted that parentsâ€™ ignorance of the value of education coupled with biting poverty compels them to subject to householdâ€™s chores instead of concentrating on homework. some parents do not provide children with scholastic materials such as exercise books and supplementary readers. I have seen pupils who do not have exercise books. Other pupils go to class without a pen! Some schools do no not give regular tests to pupils because parents are unable to buy paper and ink. Clearly, since under these circumstances children cannot do any meaningful homework, their academic progress will be greatly hampered. Many schools are understaffed. it is no exaggeration that there are some schools where the only qualified teacher is the headteacher! Consequently, a few teachers have to handle large classes. I recently led a team of officials from the Ministry of Education on an inspection tour. When we arrived at a certain school, we went straight to P.5. And what did we find? The pupils were shouting at the top of their voices as the class monitor with a stick was struggling to keep order. When we asked the children where the teacher was, they told us that P.5 had no teacher! We were told that other teachers occasionally came to teach them. The teachersâ€™ morale is very low. Despite he recent rise of their salary to sh200,000 per month, the teachers are particularly bitter about the salary delay. Small wonder therefore, that many teachers are frequently absent from school while others dodge classes. Headteachers as the first inspectors in the school have not helped the situation for they themselves are rare in schools. The point is that underteaching rather than â€œracing childrenâ€ as nuwagaba puts it is a common phenomenon in rural schools. Pupils in rural schools are yearning for more academic nourishment. This can only be achieved if the government supports headteachers by deploying enough teachers in primary schools. Only when the government has addressed the problem of understaffing, can the suggested performance contracts be meaningfully implemented.
UPE schools are ill-equipped