A group of teenage students dressed in baggy trousers, skimpy dresses and skirts emerge from a side road. Armed with books, they storm a building, where holiday lessons take place. These are part of thousands of students and pupils in candidate classes who have snubbed the Governmentâ€™s directive not to study during holidays.
They do not go to their schools, instead tree shades, garages, teachersâ€™ homes and hired venues are used as classrooms.
The education ministry banned holiday teaching and vowed to punish the culprits. Unfortunately, the teachers have not heeded to the directive. Neither have the parents and students.
While some teachers were apprehended in an operation during the recently-ended holidays, many taught to the end. In fact, pupils fill the shanty places and private homes where the classes are held in droves. They come fully armed with stipulated requirements; after the parents have fully paid up.
The Uganda Martyrsâ€™ SS Namugongo head teacher, Dr. J.C Muyingo, said : â€œTeachers and pupils are not the ones who demand the service. Itâ€™s the parents who are also forced by the nature of our curriculum.â€
A teacher at Kibuli Demonstration School, who talked on condition of anonymity concurs: â€œUnlike in the past, parents are the perpetrators of holiday teaching.â€ He says parents had formed groups through which they identified teachers for their children at an unspecified fee.
Kizito, a parent of four children with two in S.4 and P.7, advised the education ministry to streamline guidelines which should be followed during holiday teaching. She says banning the practice would mar the future of weak students. â€œAll students donâ€™t grasp content at the same pace.â€
Adding that as the ministry becomes more strict, parents would be forced to think otherwise. â€œThe ministry has authority to inspect schools, but they cannot inspect our homes. We shall take teachers to our homes.â€
Another parent said â€œMy S.4 daughter is weak in Mathematics. So she gets special attention during holidays.â€
A recent mini-survey conducted by Education Vision discovered that most teachers had defied the ministryâ€™s directive and massively conducted holiday teaching away from school premises.
At a nursery school in Kibuli, P7 pupils from top notch schools were found confined in one class. When the teacher noticed an unfamiliar face, he became suspicious and changed the session to a wedding meeting. He pocketed the pieces of chalk he was using. Usually, the sessions are tightly guarded, at the gates of the premises. Another teacher said ignoring the ban would cause problems to the students, especially the girls.
â€œMany students are being taught in garages and other hidden places, which is dangerous to them, especially the big girls. What the ministry can do is to monitor what is being taught and how it is done,â€ he said.
Moses Otyek, the acting head of the Directorate of Education Standards, said the operation â€œhelped to an extent, but only upcountry. There was a problem in Kampala, where lessons went on in parentsâ€™ houses,â€ he said.
But the ministryâ€™s spokesperson, Aggrey Kibenge, warns that if any child gets a problem in the process of conducting illegal teaching, the school or the parent should never run to the education ministry. He appeals to local councils and parents to be vigilant to avoid risks. â€œPeople are funny. We issue directives and they flout them. But when they get problems, they criticise the ministry. Suppose those girls are raped in the places where they are being taught; who will be held responsible?â€ he asked.
Otyek seems to agree with Kibenge on the issue of childrenâ€™s safety, saying that most female pupils who are abused in holidays are abused at the hands of coaching teachers. Kibenge vowed that the ministry would not give up.
â€œWhether they teach children of the ministers or education officials. Whoever is caught will serve as an example to others.â€
A few metres away from the Kibuli nursery, another group of big girls and boys is confined in a classroom at another primary school in Kibuli. These are not primary school pupils, but students of a prominent secondary school, from the neighbourhood. Some of the students at this centre are driven in cars bearing government number plates.
Because it is perceived that they come from well-to-do families, they are charged sh10,000 per subject a week.
The Kibuli head teacher, Hajji Ibrahim Matovu, disowned the students. â€œI manage Kibuli Secondary School not any other school. Whatever happens there, I am not aware and I am not responsible,â€ Matovu said.
But the teacher who was found instructing the lessons summarised the directive as selfish. â€œGovernment officials are just becoming selfish. They want their children to excel at the expense of those from poor families. Most students here are children of government officials from various ministries, including education.
They want education to become more expensive so that the others are excluded,â€ he said. Muyingo says parents also lack ways of occupying children during the holidays. â€œWhen Nkozi University realised that parents donâ€™t know how to keep their children busy during holidays, they recently started a programme to teach students what they donâ€™t learn in the classroom, during the holidays,â€ he said.
Nkozi has, together with old students of Namasagali College, designed a programme where they will teach life skills and other survival techniques to Senior Six leavers on vacation.
Muyingo believes that the solution is in urgent curriculum review, to see if what students are taught is appropriate, revise evaluation methods
â€œAs long as the time for curriculum coverage is not enough, parents will continue to turn their homes into study centres,â€ Muyingo argues. Otyek says â€œ We need to sensitise parents about the value of holidays. They need time with children.
Even the children themselves need rest; and the teachers need time to plan for the following term.â€ He said the reason children are badly behaved is because they have no time with parents. He also blames holiday coaching on poverty. â€œItâ€™s the money element,â€ he says.
â€œPeople need the money. Besides, there are very few good schools, for which thousands of pupils are fighting. They will do anything to get there,â€ he said.
The rift in quality between UPE schools on the one hand and traditional government, as well as private schools on the other, also escalates the need for coaching.
Pupils in poor schools need supplementary lessons during the holidays, a parent says. Because the market is available for teachers who conduct holiday clases, the practice is likely to continue , until the conditions that fuel it are worked on.
Why holiday teaching