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Education revamp; from tree shades to classrooms

By Vision Reporter

Added 16th May 2013 11:23 AM

Mud and wattle grass thatched classrooms, with cow-dung ‘cemented’ floors, housed on church land, is what one could see of Kakumiro Public Primary school, in Kibaale district decades ago.

Education revamp; from tree shades to classrooms

Mud and wattle grass thatched classrooms, with cow-dung ‘cemented’ floors, housed on church land, is what one could see of Kakumiro Public Primary school, in Kibaale district decades ago.

By Conan Businge

Mud and wattle grass thatched classrooms, with cow-dung ‘cemented’ floors, housed on church land, is what one could see of Kakumiro Public Primary school, in Kibaale district decades ago.

Like this primary Government school, thousands of other schools all over the country in the early 1980’s were in the same state or even worse off, with pupils studying under tree shades and ramshackled buildings.

Teachers would walk tens of miles or jump on their bicycles to dash and impart knowledge to the young every morning. But the times have changed quickly.

Government and the private investors in education sector have however, turned round this picture. So far, there are now over 130,220 classrooms constructed since 1980’s for the primary wing of education. Of these 0ver 98,500 were constructed by the Government.

Under secondary education, there are over 23,690 classrooms which have been put up by both Government and private investors in education. Of these, Government owns half of the classrooms.

At Independence in in 1962, Uganda had only 28 secondary schools with a population of less than three thousand 3,000 students. A year after independence 1963, Uganda was boasting of 41 secondary schools.

The number of schools has steadily been growing over time. In 1980’s there were about 4,276 primary schools and they were all owned by the Government. The number grew to about 7,351 and later with the liberalisation of the education sector, the number shot up to 12,480 schools in 2000 (with about 68,523 classrooms).

Enrolment in primary education tripled from 2.2 million in 1986 to 7.5million in 2007, which translates into an increase of 242%. Comparison with earlier years indicates a steady growth in enrolment i.e. in 1980 it was 1.3 million. There are today about eight million pupils in all schools in the country, without forgetting a few more millions in secondary schools.

In regard to secondary education, in 1980, there were 120 secondary schools. From 1986 the number of schools tripled from 508 to 4,446 in 2007. The total number of teachers was 3,202 in 1980 which tripled from 10,193 in 1986 to 38,816 in 2007; this translates into an increase of 281% when compared to 1986.

Under the primary wing, between 2000 and 2005, the total number of classrooms increased by 60% as a result of the continued construction of classrooms under the School Facilities Grant (SFG). Approximately 80% of the classrooms are built under the SFG. Between July 1999 and July 2005, the education and sports ministry built approximately 33,000 classrooms.

Their quality also improved. Between 2000 and 2006, the number of primary schools increased from 12,500 to 17,000, while the total number of government schools increased from 8,000 to 12,000.

The other biggest worry was for pupils who were sitting on the floor, stones, and bricks. In the last one decade, Government has set provided about 629,789 pieces of furniture in form of desks to the millions of pupils and students in the last one decade.

The education minister Jessica Alupo says that Government is committed to continue constructing more classrooms, laboratories, dormitories and teachers’ houses in various parts of the country as the education sector keeps broadening.

 “With the support of tax payers and the education development partners and private investors, the country’s education infrastructural development, is in safe hands,” she says.

The total number of students enrolled in universities has increased over time. In 1980 and 1986 there was one university in Uganda with 3,913 and 5,390 students respectively. In 2000 the total number of students enrolled in the three universities was 26,907. Currently there are 30 universities in Uganda of which 5 are public universities and 27 privately owned.

The education ministry Permanent Secretary Francis Xavier Lubanga says that all these infrastructural developments are aimed at improving the country’s quality of education. Billions of money, he says, are always invested in constructions every other financial year by Government and other development partners.

National averages on the number of teachers’  houses per school remained consistent during the years 2001 and 2005. Considering the target of four teacher houses, a slight improvement is observed at the individual school level. In 2001, 31% of the urban schools and 18% of the rural schools met the minimum target, according to reports in the education ministry. In 2005, these percentages had increased to 34% and 20%, respectively.

In 2005, approximately 25,000 teachers’ houses were available for 124,000 teachers at government schools (including 6,300 houses that were under construction). According to the annual school census, the total demand was approximately 86,000 and an additional 61,000 houses were therefore needed.

According to the school census data, almost 70% of the teachers need a teachers’ house. Not surprisingly, this percentage is higher in rural areas, where shortages are most acute. In the central and western districts, there are relatively more teachers’ houses in the urban areas than in the rural areas. Only the northern districts have relatively large numbers of teachers’ houses.

In rural areas like Karamoja, most of the teachers, according to 'New Vision' survey, desperately need teachers' houses. In a region with no taxis or pick-ups for public transport, teachers have to walk for several miles on extremely dusty roads to report to school daily. As students reside in nicely constructed brick houses, some teachers retire to small mud and wattle grass thatched houses after the day's work.  

Introduction of free secondary education, as a continuation of free primary education, led to a huge surge in enrolment, particularly in poor and rural areas where school fees has in the past prohibited entrance to post primary education. As of today, 72% of the eligible secondary school learners are out of school.

Since the launch of universal secondary education enrolment at S1 has grown rapidly. Enrolment (S1-S6) rose by 17.2% (from 814,087 to 954,328) between 2006 and 2007. In 2007, up to 356,829 candidates passed PLE and this number will rise to 1,556,131 by 2018.

Considering a transition rate of 68.6% from P7 to S1, this has serious implications in terms of space requirements, infrastructure, teacher requirements, sanitation, the private secondary schools, and to the biological, physical and social, and economic environment.

Apart from classrooms, Government has also constructed so many latrines and kitchens for the teachers in various parts of the country over time. The Assistant Commissioner for the Construction management unit in the ministry, Justus Akankwasa, believes that most of the Government constructed buildings, “are of great quality, and will stand the taste of time.”

Future plans

Over the Plan period of 2008-2018, there is a gap of up to 35,338 classrooms, 126,459 5-stance pit latrines, 533 libraries, 400 multi-purpose science rooms, and 799 4-unit teachers’ houses.

Investment of up to sh4,650bn according to Government, will be required to sustain growth in the secondary education sector over this period, out of which provision of facilities will require sh1,117bn. For classroom provision, a total of 3,992 will be constructed annually as determined by the existing absorptive capacity of the domestic economy, according to the education ministry’s reports.

“Construction will be decentralised at the school-level. Typical classroom will be constructed on existing school grounds as an addition to existing school building, or, in some cases, as a self-standing new building,” according to documents obtained from the education ministry.

The classrooms will be typically constructed from locally sourced materials, with concrete slab foundations, concrete floors, clay brick walls, and corrugated metal roofing on wood frames. Walls and window frames are painted with oil paints.

In most cases, classrooms are typically not connected to the power grid and water supply. Water supply is provided from stand pipes and sanitation is provided by pit latrines. Libraries, multi-purpose science rooms and teacher houses are constructed similarly.

The new infrastructure typically does not require access roads because it is an expansion along the old school site. Most of the construction materials described above are available in Uganda and are provided by the communities at a reasonable cost.

According to the education ministry, between 2009 and 2018, more than 200,000 students, will qualify for admission to A’ level; because of the increased output of free Ordinary level education which is free in Government schools.

Most of the increase in A’level enrolment will occur in the second half of the period because of the time required for the increase in secondary enrolment to reach S.5. Between 2009-2018, enrolment in upper secondary (S5-S6) is programmed to increase by about four times; meaning from about 131,944 to 468,014 students.

Will this increasing population be contained effectively by the country’s education system in future? This may call for massive increment of the private investors, ready to fund the country’s education sector.

Education revamp; from tree shades to classrooms

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