Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Is Uganda's Ministry of Education in control?

One may ask where the Ministry of education and Sports is in control of what is going on in schools. The schools are observing the Opening days and closing days though some still don’t observe them. The Ministry’s control should be enhanced by an effective inspection function. Unfortunately, this is near to a dead function! The inspectors more often than not visit schools after alerting them that they are to visit. This is done so that their ‘envelope’ is prepared in advance hence compromising the function which they are expected to execute.
To boost Quality Primary Education (QPE), the inspection function must be made to perform, and the reports made should be followed up.
Children’s Health
Most schools don’t have resources to check the children’s health, and this impacts negatively on other children who end up contracting diseases from fellow students. I have seen Sudanese with unusual disease; some with wounds developing on the children’s legs and arms, but it is not unusual for such children to mix with others freely. The Ministry of Education should establish health units where all children are examined at least every beginning of a school term.
Children’s Circumstances
1) Most schools have no resources to follow up the children at home. It is a fact that a number of children are mistreated by step mothers. There is a case in point where the father of a child would leave the child in school uniform, but on going to work, the step mother would tell the child to remove the uniform and that way, the child missed school on a number of days. Fortunately, one day, the father called at the school and he was told that the child was missing class! It is after that intervention that the child is now regular!
2) There is a child in the school that I am using as reference; this child writes well, but cannot perform in academics. It is said that this child was tortured by those who cared for her in earlier childhood, and in such circumstances, without knowing such background, the teachers may keep punishing this girl (child) because she does not improve academically, when actually she (they) developed mental problems.
3) When one talks to the children, they freely tell the reason why they cannot perform well. There is fear due to the beating by the teachers. One girl’s mother in the school I have had chance to study says that her daughter would put on more than one dress and a number of pants because of the beating! This is not conducive to effective learning. Other children say that either they don’t hear well or understand the language as the teacher communicates in English. It is also true that children on many occasions lack scholastic requirements like books, Geometry sets, pens, pencils to mention a few.
4) Poor feeding – This is experienced both at school for the borders and the day scholars. Some households are so poverty stricken that they cannot afford to pay for children’s meals, yet even at home, some of these children don’t eat enough and the balanced diet is out of the picture for many who can have what to eat!
5) There are also children who care for themselves. A case in point is where a father stays with children but these rarely see him. He comes home when they are already a sleep and by the time they wake up, he has already gone leaving some money for them to care for themselves.
6) School Curriculum
Because inspection by Government is almost a dead function, the timetables in many schools are done at times with least consideration of the strain to the children. The motive here is to see that the children get the 1st grades so that the market for the school is boosted, hence many more children the following year, or even be able to increase the fees given the demand to join the school as many pass exams. Children more often than not are in class by 5.00am, lessons go on up to 10.30am. Classes resume at 11.00am to 1.00pm, children get an hour for the lunch break, after which afternoon classes start at 2.00pm ending at 4.00pm. After a break of 30 minutes, children continue with class work up to 5.30pm. They then do washing and get supper at 7.00 to 7.30pm after which classes (with teachers teaching) continue up to 9.00pm! What may be noted in this routine is that even when a child has been given notes, there is almost no private time to read on her own, all the time some teacher is around either teaching or guiding what has to go on!
7) Congestion in dormitories
Many schools with boarding facilities have no accommodation in proportion to children numbers they have, hence the crowding of the children which leads to unhealthy circumstances.
The School requirements
While many boarding primary schools charge at least 200,000/- (by 2007) a term, the items the children have to bring to school as required by the authorities are in the range of the same amount of money if not more. Given the prevailing economic situation, much as it is a social requirement for the parents to have children in school, the burden is getting out of hand, and this is reflected in default rates in payments of school dues, and this in some instances makes children to miss a number of days when they are sent home to collect fees which they have carry with them before resuming to attend class.
The location of schools (distance apart)
While school registration is being done, it is very important to emphasize the distance a part between two different schools. I have had opportunity to see what goes on where a primary school is separated by a wall from a secondary school. As exams were going on in the secondary school, the primary school had to ensure that children are controlled not to shout hence disturb the peace of the secondary students who were doing UNEB papers.
The relation between Head teachers and school owners
More often than not, the school owners dictate what Head teachers should do. This leads to conflict as owners may not be professionally aware of roles the Head teachers should perform. This requires to have workshops/seminars to address this issue with both parties present, otherwise it negatively impacts on the teachers and the pupils if these school director/owner conflicts with the Head teacher simply because he/she owns the school.
The Quality of the teachers
Many private schools recruit desperate people for teachers as they in many instances may not be capable of paying big salaries for properly qualified teachers. This compromises the quality of education hence sub-standard children are the final product.
Availability of drinking water
Some schools have water supply by National Water and Sewerage Corporation, however, this water at times is not flowing in the pipes, hence they look to alternative source of water. Unfortunately, many schools have no resources to boil such water and children are exposed to drinking insecure water.
Career Guidance
In many of these schools, there is much push for academics and almost no time for career guidance. This role however needs to be a practical one, and because at times the teachers may be very limited in scope, outsiders may have to called in to talk to the children about careers and also entertain questions on the subject.
Involvement in community activities
Many schools don’t have time for children involvement in community activities like helping the needy, working on roads, yet these are educative areas where children should play a role as they get to interact with members of their community and also be trained to be helpful to those in need.

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