A year ago, Uganda Debt Network (UDN) in conjunction with the Red Pepper embarked on a campaign about the state of government schools aimed at monitoring and assessing their performance, let alone how they can be improved. In this campaign, call it part II (of the state of government schools) , we are looking at the changes made following the first campaign as well as broadening our coverage to more upcountry areas/ schools. In this exclusive interview, Red Pepper’s Annet Ntambi & Mercy Kyomugisha, brings you Vicent Baraza , the Mukono District Education Officer(DEO)talking about the state of government schools in the district.
Below are the excerpts:
Tell us about the status of government Primary Schools in Mukono district?
Schools have improved and are still improving. Government has constructed classroom blocks and bought more furniture. Except for a few rural schools, pupils no longer study under tree sheds. The teacher to pupil ratio has also improved; today on average it is 1:53, unlike some years ago when it could be at 1:80 pupils.
But government schools are still lagging behind private schools in terms of academic performance?
Academic performance cannot be tagged on one side. The quality of performance is attributed to five players; the government, parents, teachers, pupils and school management committee. They are all responsible for the academic excellence of the pupils. Whereas government is doing its part, parents need to understand the whole concept of the program. Parents should know that it is also their responsibility to feed their children or buy them scholastic materials. Recently St. Andrews Kisoga (a government school) was the best performing school in the district and the head teacher was rewarded for that.
Tell us about the general welfare of teachers in the district?
Actually salaries have improved. Government is doing everything possible to improve the teachers’ welfare so as to motivate them. Salaries were increased by 25%. The lowest paid Grade III teacher earns a net salary of 380,000 minus all the taxes. Also, there are no more salary delays; in fact the salary for October was received by 22nd.
For accommodation, there are a few challenges in the rural areas but School management committees are trying to rent houses for teachers. Government has scored highly in improving infrastructures in schools and as far as I know, there is a supplementary budget set aside to specifically cater for the teachers’ accommodation.
There’s general delay in capitation grants in the country. Is the situation any better in your district?
Capitation grant is distributed in all schools including those in Mukono [so, Mukono is not an exception]. It is intended to construct classroom blocks, toilets buildings and other needs.
In your opinion, what’s the future of UPE in Uganda?
The future of UPE will definitely be bright as long as parents co-operate. UPE was supposed to be compulsory but because the law to enforce it is weak, we still see children who are supposed to be in schools selling goods on the roadsides. Things will be better if the law is effected.