By Adellah Agaba
The introduction of Universal Primary Education in Uganda was an initiative that was meant to reduce high levels of poverty and improve human development by encouraging every child to enter school and in the end avoid inequalities and make education affordable to the majority of Ugandans.
With these set targets that were welcomed by the majority Ugandans the enrollment increased from 3.1 million in 1996 to 5.3 million in 1997, an increase of 73% in one year.
By 2003, gross enrolment in primary schools had reached 7.6 million and 8.2 million by 2009 and primary school enrollment (% net) at 90.87 in 2010, according to the World Bank.
With the increase in enrollment of pupils, many unplanned for needs cropped up in the education sector which in the end affected the level of performance in UPE schools prompting some parents to consider private schools despite the fees paid accordingly.
The increase in the number of children in school invariably implied an increase in the need for teachers who were not readily available.
This in turn led to high dropouts as, student – teacher ratio which was not sustainable, poor welfare of teachers, insufficient funds in terms of capitation grant, poor facilities and infrastructure all contributing to the high levels of poor performance in UPE schools.
Lack of parental interest in school affairs is positively related to failure rate. While UPE means that families do not have to pay school fees, uniforms and school materials, with the poverty in the rural areas, many parents would prefer that the children first do some household chores affecting performance of these pupils since they will have to miss some classes and others drop out because of the inconsistencies in school.
Teacher strikes have been found to be significant in increased failure rate, despite the good cause to have their welfare demands put into consideration by the Government of Uganda, like an increment in salaries, and establishing decent accommodation for the teachers to avoid absenteeism.
Delayed remittance and insufficiency of funds/Capitation Grant negatively lead to increased failure rate as this hampers the scheduled teaching and use of instructional materials by teachers which doesn’t accommodate pupils studying as to required standards.
Poor infrastructure too plays a part in pupils failure rate since some pupils as per the visited districts of Kabale, Kasese and Arua, some pupils still attend class under trees and some weather conditions can’t allow learning to progress accordingly.
A survey in selected schools in the districts where Uganda Debt Network operates some parts of classrooms were found to have been converted into teachers’ accommodation, pupils shared latrines with teachers, girls and boys shared latrines and pupils studied in highly congested classrooms without desks.
Despite all the Government efforts to improve learning and conditions in primary education, a lot needs to be done to ensure improved and quality level of education in UPE schools.