Top schools yesterday moved to stiffen competition as they announced cut-off points that will keep many hopeful pupils out. King’s College Budo, Gayaza High School, Nabisunsa Girls, St. Mary’s Kisubi and Mt. St Mary’s Namagunga will break many hearts as they said they would not take anyone above aggregate 4 and five for boys and girls respectively.

Last year, all these accepted students with aggregate Six. Other top performing schools like Ntare School, Kibuli SS, Seeta High School and Uganda Martyrs Namugongo limited their admission to pupils with only aggregate six and seven.

Whereas some pupils will moan over failure to gain access to their first-choice schools, over 150,000 failed to gain any admission.
Of the 431,706 P7 leavers eligible to join Senior One, only 275,990 were absorbed in the 1,676 government and private schools, less than the 282,020 who were admitted last year.

This means that at least 155,716 students will not be admitted despite having garnered the required aggregate for admission. The rest will have to contend with finding places in private schools. Many school head teachers blamed the cut-down on limited facilities and the need to improve the learning environment for those who will be admitted to Senior One.

“To maintain our standard as a school we have considered only those (students) we think can post better grades so that we keep on the top,” said Mr Juma Ndifuna, the career teacher at Kibuli Secondary School. Of the 2,130 Primary Seven leavers who put their first choices at Kibuli SS, only 120 were admitted.

Mr Twino Buhungiro, the Kigezi High School head teacher, said: “We wish we could take more students but due to space limitations this is what we can absorb.” The school only admitted 140 students out of 436 who applied.

But the Commissioner for Secondary Education, Mr Francis Agula, speaking at the opening of the two-day selection exercise at Namboole Stadium yesterday, said some private school would come in handy. “There are so many private schools that have not attended the selections, these might take on the remaining students.”

Poor choices
A number of head teachers who talked to Daily Monitor said many students were left out partly because of the good performance in last year’s PLE but also the poor choices the pupils made when indicating which schools they preferred to be admitted to for secondary education.

Mr Silvester Ocaatam, a teacher at Bubaare SS, said: “Choice making must have been the biggest problem for pupils and that is why many have missed out. They choose only big schools for their first, second, third and fourth choices and at the end of the day, they miss out on all.”

The fall in the number of students admitted will put the government under more pressure to increase facilities in secondary schools as it widens access to education in primary and post-primary institutions. But State Minister for Primary Education Dr Kamanda Bataringaya told Daily Monitor on Wednesday that government was aware of the problem and more facilities are being set up to address the surge in numbers.

“There is no cause for alarm,” he said by telephone on Wednesday, adding that more that 19 polytechnics will be established this year across the country and 65 community-owned secondary schools will be taken over by government in a bid to improve standards and expand facilities.

Mr Agula said the 908 government-aided schools across the country, which run the free Universal Secondary Education programme, will admit 152,410 students this year, far below the 179,440 admitted last year. Privately-owned schools which implement the USE programme will admit another 79,629 students.

Another 22,420 students will join schools that are supported by the government, for example St. Leo’s College Kyegobe, but which do not operate the USE programme. This is exactly the same figure these schools admitted last year. Another 960 join vocational institutions, a drop from 3,720 admitted last year.

Mr Martin Omagor-Loican, the chairman of the selection committee, directed all USE-implementing schools to unconditionally select students who scored aggregate 28 and better for admission. He implored school heads to be compassionate and admit those candidates with aggregates slightly above preferred cut-off aggregates. But many head teachers Daily Monitor spoke to said they had been overwhelmed by the number of applications.

Mr Omagor-Loican warned school heads against being influenced by parents to take students who performed poorly. “I am quite aware that even before this exercise began parents were already at your doors. Please admit within the set guidelines.” Senior one students report to school on February 14.