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UPE schools are ill-equipped

By Vision Reporter

Added 9th July 2006 03:00 AM

SIR — With the introduction of UPE, pupils’ 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.

SIR — With the introduction of UPE, pupils’ 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.

SIR — With the introduction of UPE, pupils’ 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. All the stakeholders in primary education have voiced concern about the quality of education the children receive in primary school. They have particularly singled out numeracy and literacy. They wonder why a child should reach P.4 when he cannot read and write. It is in an effort to improve pupils’ academic performance that the education ministry demands that headteachers sign performance contracts. I was therefore surprised to read Dr. Augustus Nuwagaba’s article article that too much homework was ‘killing’ children. While it may be true that children in urban schools are subjected to too much homework, in rural schools the story is lamentably different. Yet Nuwagaba creates the impression that children in all primary schools do too much work. The difference in performance between urban and rural schools is unacceptable wide. For example, NAPE’s pupils assessment (1999) reveals that 97.7% of pupils in rural schools failed to score 36% in English. According to the same report of July 2003 “There was a wide disparity between the performance of the pupils in Kampala and rural schools”. There are several factors responsible for pupil’s inadequate performance in rural schools.
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 parents’ ignorance of the value of education coupled with biting poverty compels them to subject to household’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 teachers’ 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 “racing children” 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.

Name withheld

UPE schools are ill-equipped

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