For the past seven years, Uwezo, an international think-tank that gauges education standards in the region, has annually chronicled unhealthy report cards about our education system, but the disease just won’t go away.
In its June 2016 report, Uwezo said of the 28,147 children assessed from 17,340 households in 28 districts, only 33 per cent could perform all literacy and numeracy tasks they were given. The pupils from Primary Three to Primary Seven could not count or read Primary Two material.
Worse still, the 860 head teachers who participated in the exercise painted a gloomier picture. The findings indicated that they, too, could not attempt some of the questions competently. Now the World Bank report released on September 26 suggests even a grimier situation.
The report titled Learning To Realise Education’s Promise 2018 was commissioned across sub-Saharan Africa, and it shows that children learn very little in education systems with millions lacking basic numeracy and literacy skills after spending several years in school.
That Uganda is the second country in the world with the most pupils who can’t read or count is not something we should treat as a passing cloud. The findings cast the country in really very bad light. The findings are also not new and should serve as a wake-up call.
We should go back to the drawing board and find out what we are not doing right.
Much as the studies harvest such information from mainly rural areas such as Karamoja, stakeholders need to take them seriously and use the findings to bridge the gap between those in rural areas and their urban counterparts. The introduction of Universal Primary Education 20 years ago and Universal Secondary Education about a decade ago, was envisioned to check this.
And much as the country has scored on the numbers, it has lost terribly on the quality.
For instance, from 3.1 million pupils in school in 1996, there were 8.5 million by 2015. But what is in the 8.5 million heads?
Such reports show that there are issues we should not ignore.
Teachers, for example, have for so long asked for better remuneration and other welfare issues. Why not give them better pay to boost their morale? Many schools outside the major towns have appalling facilities; let’s fix the infrastructure issues. Besides, are there enough, appropriate teaching and learning material in schools?
Of course, rural schools still face issues of low parental awareness, poverty, and early marriages, among others. But there are basic things, including strict supervision that government can enforce to turn this around.
But if that can’t happen, then, as President Museveni recently suggested, “… if you think it [UPE] needs to be restructured, we do that.”