In our last edition on the state of government schools in Uganda, the Red Pepper’s Henry Mulindwa, interviewed Jessica Alupo, Uganda’s Minister of Education & Sports about what her ministry is doing to better the Universal Primary Education (UPE) programme and what the future holds.
Below are the excerpts:
UPE schools have been performing poorly compared to private ones. Doesn’t this worry you?
You may be informed that overall the pass rate at P7 is over 90% with UPE schools having a share of over 80%. All pupils who pass qualify to join Secondary or Technical Vocational Education and Training.
Most head teachers interviewed during this campaign fault UPE on the high pupil to teacher ratio yet with low morale. What’s your take on their observation?
Low morale is relative and is caused by many factors including but not limited to poor remuneration, which government is trying to address with now a minimum wage for Grade III teachers at UShs330, 000 per month and poor facilitation in terms of accommodation, instructional materials etc. Government provides instructional materials and the supplies have been improving every year; accommodation remains a challenge but some minimal provisions have been made to the districts to construct two blocks of four units per district at least every year.
Low morale can also be caused by poor supervision and management of the staff. To solve this, the head teachers are being retrained in human resource management and this should improve the situation.
Inadequate capitation grants and late disbursements is one of the major challenges facing UPE schools. Is your ministry doing something to save the situation?
True the capitation grants have remained low over the years because of other pressing problems in other productive areas of the economy which need to be addressed first e.g. infrastructure for energy and transport.
The late disbursement of the grants has been addressed through release of funds on a termly rather than quarterly basis. This will be done in the holidays.
Some schools are not comfortable with automatic promotion of pupils?
This is a government policy which is quite feasible and viable as long as the teachers effectively teach and cover the syllabus. So the frustration by teachers is self-inflicted because some of them are not effective.
Some experts have blamed the poor quality of primary teachers on the entry requirement of a pass and students taking the teaching career as the lastresort. What’s your take on this?
The minimum entry requirement has been raised to credit for English, Pass for Maths and sciences; and other two; and overall a minimum of 6 passes are required. The problem sometimes is attitude to work in addition to poor work ethics and culture which can be addressed over a long period.
Some UPE schools charge extra fees to pay teachers. What does the policy stipulate?
The policy is for the parents to provide midday meals to their children at school. The school management committee may follow on the modality which is agreeable to the parents but the most commonly practiced approach is for the parents to contribute food in kind but which may call for some little money for the purchase of equipment and pay for labour (cooking).
President Museveni recently talked of review of the UPE programme. When should this be expected?
The president’s guidance is timely. The UPE programme has been on since 1997 (17 years) and it is due for review. We are currently in the process of reviewing the Education Policy comprehensively and this is one area targeted.
What would you consider the best system for Uganda’s primary education?
An education system supported by a strong Early Childhood Development (ECD), with qualified and motivated teachers in a good teaching and learning environment.