Monday, May 21, 2012
CAN UPE LIVE TO EXPECTATIONS OF THOSE WHO INVEST IN IT?
More decay in UPE, new report reveals By YASIIN MUGERWA Posted Tuesday, May 22 2012 at 00:00 In Summary The findings reveal that the issue of quality in most schools remains unresolved and the government annually loses Shs20b to ghost teachers. KAMPALA A latest review of the free primary education scheme has confirmed fears that the government continues to lose billions of shillings to ghost pupils and teachers through a programme which appears not to be returning value for money. The findings, contained in a report by the Auditor General, paint a picture of a programme in crisis even before a parallel commission of inquiry into UPE, which was set up by the President in 2009, completes its work. The March 2012 report submitted to Parliament notes that: “The failure to carry out regular inspection of all schools and compile quarterly reports hampered ability to assess the compliance of schools with expenditure and other UPE guidelines and financial accountability … The absence of quarterly inspection reports denied districts and schools an opportunity to solve the challenges faced in the implementation of the programme.” Between June last year and March, the auditor general conducted a value-for-money audit into UPE and discovered that thousands of registered pupils were missing examinations yet government paid for their registration (PLE fees). From 2006 to 2009, 97,417 pupils missed PLE exams, resulting in a loss of more than Shs974 million. It is estimated that the government annually loses about Shs20b to pay salaries for ghost teachers, a revelation which partly explains the poor performance in public schools. An analysis of the PLE results for 2006 to 2010 revealed that most pupils were obtaining dismal results which left them stuck in Division 2 and Division 3. The number of pupils who failed was more than those who passed in Division 1 in all the years. Although the number of pupils who failed exams reduced in 2009 and 2010, the rate of reduction was low. Better performance was posted in 2010 and the worst results were noted in 2008. Auditor General John Muwanga said the low performance at PLE was due to teacher and pupil absenteeism, limited scholastic materials and infrastructure. In a country where more than 7.5 million Ugandans (24.5 per cent) are recorded as poor, the audit report says, acute poverty is forcing parents to give away their children, especially girls as young as 14 into early marriage, further complicating the government’s commitment to improve national literacy levels. When introducing the programme (in 1997), there were 2.2 million pupils in primary schools and the number rose to 8.3 million pupils two years ago, with the government spending Shs139 billion in capitation grants over the 2006/07 to 2009/10 financial years to UPE schools. Despite the increased pupil enrolment and the substantial investment in UPE, there have been concerns about the high school drop-out rate, the high pupil-to-book ratio, lack of basic instructional materials, among others. School head teachers interviewed attributed the high drop-out rate to the use of pupils by parents as a source of labour, early marriages, failure by parents to send children to school and lack of provision of lunch by parents, among other reasons. While the drop-out rate between 2006 and 2010 fell from 5 per cent to 4.3 per cent respectively, the quality in most schools remains unresolved, the report notes. This finding will come as a blow to the UPE guidelines of October 2008, which stated the main goal of UPE as being to provide the minimum necessary facilities and resources to enable all children of school-going age to enter and finish the primary school cycle. An analysis of the completion rate to Primary 7 as reported by the Ministry of Education revealed a performance rate of below 50 per cent in 2006, 2007, and 2008. In academic years 2009 and 2010, the completion rate was 52 per cent and 54 per cent, respectively. firstname.lastname@example.org