They struggled to assemble materials together full of passion. Confidently, they explained the different stages and concepts about their science projects in turns.
Students of St. Maria Goretti S.S. at the regional science fair. PHOTO/ Agnes Kyotalengerire
By Agnes Kyotalengerire
They struggled to assemble materials together full of passion. Confidently, they explained the different stages and concepts about their science projects in turns while parents and fellow students watched in admiration.
Such was the bee hive of activities in the recently concluded regional science fair competitions organized by Uganda Science Education Program (USEP), under the theme: “Secondary school curriculum and innovation”,
The science fair competition engaged schools from different regions of the country. Students show cased projects like: soap making, starch, powdered milk, making an artificial incubator and purification of water among many. The winning schools got a prize of laboratory equipment worth sh1. 5million while those that emerged second got laboratory equipment worth sh900, 000.
The winning schools included: Maria Goretti SS in western region, St Mary’s Madera from Eastern region, St Henry’s Kitovu from central region, St John Fisher Ibanda from southern region and St. Joseph Girls SS Nsambya.
Brother Brian Matsiko the chairman board USEP said the project was started at the time students were shunning science subjects. Matsiko said science fairs were started to demystify science to enable students understand and learn better.
Uganda Science Education Programme (USEP) is a programme under Kisubi Brothers University College that was established in 2009 to compliment the Ugandan government efforts in the prioritization policy of science education in a bid to improve the quality of teaching and learning of science subjects in Secondary schools in Uganda
How students have benefited
Andrew Wambuzi a students at St Edward’s Bukuumi said they choose a topic for the project and did a bit of research. They discovered that they could use the local materials available to make the battery charging system for our physics project.
Aside, Wambuzi says getting involved in science fair projects and working in groups has made learning of physics very interesting.
Daniel Opolot a S4 student at St Thereza girls Okunguro said taking part in the science fair and particularly in the making the Acariside project has improved his skills and enabled him learn about accuracy, ratios and quantity
Brian Osimwa a Senior four student at St John Fisher Ibanda says he did not know how to use a computer and could not assess some information until he took part in the science fair project.
Osimwa has acquired skills and knowledge and discovered new things through doing research.
These are some of the testimonies on how science fair projects have improved the learning of sciences.
Francis Uma Agula assistant commissioner for government schools says science fairs enables students to actualize the concepts learnt in class while increasing chances of understanding the concepts better.
“It is important that students overcome fear, become innovative and creative if they are to improve their performance in science subjects,”Agula said.
John Agaba, commissioner secondary school education says schools that perform well in science subjects have been known to engage their students in science fairs annually.
He urges teachers to engage learners in science fairs because the projects persuade learners to develop interest in science subjects, put theory into practice making learning to real life and enable them manipulate their environment to full potential.
Students showcase their ideas. PHOTO/Kyotalengerire
Poor grades in sciences lead to poor academic performance
Richard Alituha, the Municipal Education Officer Fort portal who officiated over the western region science fair said science subjects have been a major road block to general academic performance in the region.
According to UCE 2012 divisional score by district, Kabarole district had 4.0% of students in division I and 13.8% of students passing in division II out of a total of 4,249 students who sat for examinations. Kibale district had 5.8% of students in division I and 17.8% of students in division II out of the 5,469 students who sat for the exams.
Agula says poor grades in science subjects affect the general academic performance of students.
“The best aggregates are got from the best eight performed including the four compulsory science subjects,” Agula said.
He added that poor performance in sciences has long term consequences; it disqualifies a student from studying science subjects at “A” level. As a result the student will not qualify for the government University loan scheme which is intended to target students with science related subjects.
Why science subjects are always poorly performed
Agaba says for several decades students have constantly performed poorly in science subjects.
According to 2012 UCE results mathematics and science subjects were the most poorly performed. 42.5% of the candidates failed Biology and only 1% got distinctions and 23.9% got credits.
Of the 261,641 candidates who sat for Mathematics last year, only 2.1% got distinctions compared to 2.6% in 2011. Those with credits were 23.9% compared to 23.7% the previous ear. In physics, 52.7% of the candidates failed and only 0.7% got distinctions compared to 1.5% in 2011.
Those who passed with credits were 18.1% compared to 22.9% in 2011. In chemistry, 0.9% passed with distinctions compared to 0.6% in 2011 and 11.2 % compared to 7.7% in 2011.
Realizing the results at statistics House in Kampala on the 7th February this year, the National examinations board secretary Mathew Bukenya attributed the high failure rates in sciences to the fact that most of the teaching was theoretical without practical.
In regard, Agaba blames the poor performance on negative attitude of students towards the subjects who think sciences are difficult.
“Girls think sciences should be studied by boys yet schools have more girls than boys which affects general academic performance,” Agaba says
He says the policy of compulsory science subjects was introduced to erase the negative attitude, mentality that sciences are for boys and create interest in learners to study science subjects.
Charles Bakakimpa the board member USEP partly blames the teachers who constantly discourage learners telling them that the subjects were difficult.
Bakakimpa says science fairs are intended to improve the performance of science subjects through student based learning approach.
Aside, the science fairs are aimed at motivating students to choose science subjects especially at “A” level and pass them like any other arts subjects.
What teachers say
Sophia Wanyama the deputy head teacher said engaging students in science fair project has helped the school improve in the performance of science subjects in the years of 2011 and 2012. As a result, Stella Matutina emerged the best in Biology in the district in the 2012 UNEB.
Nelson Kamya biology and chemistry teacher at St Maria Gorretti secondary school says engaging students in science fair projects has motivated them hence increasing on the numbers of students offering sciences,” says Kamya.
Aside, Lutigadi Komurembe, deputy head teacher St Maria Gorretti S.S says science fairs equip students with entrepreneur skill enabling them become job creators after school.
“Science fair projects help students gain confidence. During the exhibitions, they learn how to communicate better, present and market themselves,” Komurembe said.
Anthony Kaliba Businge, a teacher at St Edwards Bukuumi said integration of ICT in the teaching of science has made learning interesting and interactive. In addition, students understand abstract concepts better.
“Integration helps students to transcend the barriers between them and knowledge. We have discovered that students think faster and learn better when they learn by the use of technology,” Kaliba said.
Science fairs vital for motivation and success