Gov’t is Committed To Improving UPE Schools-Commissioner

By Sarah Achen

In this last edition about the state of government primary schools brought to you by Uganda Debt Network in partnership with Red Pepper, we bring you views from the ministry of education about the topic under discussion.

Michael Obuya, Bukedea DEO
Michael Obuya, Bukedea DEO

In an exclusive interview with Dr. Daniel Nkaada, the Commissioner for Basic Primary Education at Ministry of Education and Sports, he reveals that Universal Primary Education (UPE) was set up for four elements namely; access, equity, relevance and affordability.

He says although not all school going age children are at school due to a number of factors, enrollment of pupils in primary education has gone up since 1997 when UPE was introduced.

On infrastructure, Nkaada says government sends money to the local governments to ensure that schools have enough classroom blocks and other facilities.

“We are aware that the money we send to the schools is not enough but we want to request them to put it into proper use because when it’s diverted to other things, it affects the plans,” says Nkaada.

He adds: “The money is meant to construct latrines, teacher’s houses and scholastic materials among others.”

He added that they are trying to improve the situation in the hard-to-reach areas by building teachers’ quarters so as to attract more teachers.

On the quality of teachers, he said they started with in service teachers (inexperienced teachers) who were undergoing training at Core Primary Teachers Training Colleges but now UPE schools have more qualified teachers.

He added that the ministry is going to recruit more teachers and streamline the salary scale of Head Teachers so that they all earn the same amount.

“We are now shifting Head Teachers from being class teachers to administration. They will only be allowed to teach but not being class teachers because of the huge task they have on their shoulder,” he said. This means all primary schools in Uganda will recruit a teacher to replace Head Teachers who have been teaching as class teachers, a move that will see over 10,000 teachers recruited.

On Capitation Grant

Nkaada agrees that the money is very little for schools to carry out their programs sufficiently and that the ministry of education is to convince the ministry of finance to increase on the budget from at least UShs7000 to UShs10, 000 per pupil.

He however noted that they facilitate District Education Officers and school inspectors to help monitor and follow up to ensure that schools utilize the money for the right cause and exercise maximum transparency.

He explained that to improve on literacy levels of pupils, the ministry has partnered with USAID to re-orient teachers in teaching local and English languages.

Also in partnership with USAID, the ministry is improving infrastructure and building teachers’ houses in selected districts.

On parents meeting salary obligations of some teachers, Nkaada said, “It’s ok since parents are stakeholders, they should be part of the daily running and wellbeing of the school. For example, if it’s to do with the child’s welfare, I think it’s important for a parent to be involved because you cannot send your child on an empty stomach and expect them to perform miracles. Paying the little amount for the sake of your child or contributing towards constructing a teacher’s house should be fine.” He added: “Every child has a right to education and when their parents’ default, they should not be banned from sitting exams.”

Bukedea District UPE Schools on Recovery Process-DEO

By Mark Omagor

Bukedea District, curved out of Kumi District in 2006 is still struggling to uplift the standard of primary education.

According to the Bukedea District Education Officer, Michael Obuya, the district has in the past been referred to as “a district on drip”.

“We were always among the last districts in PLE (Primary Leaving Examinations) performance. Sometimes we had as few as only 4 candidates getting Division I in the whole district,” he said, adding that going by the  improvement in performance in the last two years, they are “now a district on recovery.”

Although Universal Primary Education (UPE) program has its own challenges, Obuya says it has greatly improved education in the district.

He says the government has generally sent grants to UPE schools in the district in addition to supporting infrastructural developments under the PRDP ( and SFG (School Facilitation Grant) funds.

The UPE programme has also seen an increase in the enrolment of girls in schools, claims Obuya without giving figures.

“Parents seem to be more willing to send their daughters to school than it was prior to UPE,” he said.

To further support   UPE program, government has recruited more teachers in the district to meet the ever increasing number of pupils in schools.

“Last year, government recruited 593 teachers for Bukedea primary schools,” said Obuya.

He added: “Text books have also been provided to schools from government. In October this year, government sent an assortment of text books for SST and Art and Technology for P.5, P.6 and P.7. 94 schools received new books from government and we are very grateful for that.”

Challenges

Although UPE is good, Obuya says inadequate and late release of finances to schools is affecting the good intention of the program.

“This year, the money for second term was released at the end of the term and in third term, it came when National exams were starting. It makes planning difficult,” he observed, adding that delayed finances also makes inspection of schools quite difficult. He also decried the poor breakdown of the funds.

He explained that capitation grants do not cater for the School Management Committees (SMCs) yet they play a vital role in overseeing the implementation of the syllabus. This, he said, sometimes puts Head teachers and their SMCS on a collision course. The money also does not cater for teachers’ lunch.

“Imagine a teacher leaving his home at 7am and has to work up to 5pm without any lunch, it leads to inefficiency,” he said.

Staff accommodation is also inadequate, said Obuya, adding that teachers have to move long distances from their homes to schools.

“This brings about late coming, early departure from school or total absenteeism in teachers. Teachers also don’t have enough time to guide learners since they live far,” he observed, adding, “Many teachers have also ended up absconding from government schools and running to well-paying private schools.”

Obuya also noted that parents have totally misunderstood the concept of UPE for they think that government must meet all costs including lunch for pupils, uniforms, exercise books and even health of children. This, he said, is one of the major challenges hampering the teaching-learning process in the district.

Additionally, Obuya says most teachers have very little knowledge of financial management hence meeting problems of accountability.

The District EducationDepartment has also had to contend with the skeleton staff available. Obuya himself has been acting since early 2013 without being regularized.

“Working in liaison with the CAO, the district co-opted two Head Teachers i.e. Justine Akol and Jane Anyango to help in the inspectorate department but these too have not been appointed,” he said, adding that this makes their work very difficult.

Improving Standards

To better the education standards in the district, Obuya said they have embarked on intensive inspection of schools. He expressedappreciation to the local leaders and the School Management Committees who have been supportive in this area.

Obuya thinks Head teachers and teachers should be trained in basic financial management skills so that they can effectively manage the UPE funds as well as their own.

He also advises the parents to play their role as major stakeholders in the education of their children.

Summary of Academic Performance in Bukedea District since 2006

YEAR DIV 1 DIV 2 TOTAL
2006 15 980 2201
2007 12 798 1886
2008 04 383 2229
2009 13 830 2691
2010 32 1108 2874
2011 44 1029 2820
2012 92 1369 2866
2013 97 1395 2929

 

 

 

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