UPE: From Quantity To Quality – From Schooling To Learning

recipe geneva;”>The President who was driving from Bugabula, Kamuli district, to Kampala stopped at Busota, Bugonga zone talked to the frenzy crowds and chatted with them.

He continued to the bridge at Jinja where he met some drivers who talked to him before continuing to Kampala.

It should be remembered that in 1986 after the bush war the president defied directives by his aide who had suggested that the then youthful leader stay in his vehicle due to security reasons but the president insisted and moved to the crowds.

The president thus retorted ‘I have never committed any crime. Why would these Ugandans harm me,’’ as he walked through the crowds in Masaka.

According to the Ugandans, the president distinguished himself from other former presidents who were always seen reading news papers while seated in their comfortable cars as they cruised past the people

The president is also remembered to have made a visit to the Namungoona fuel tanker accident scene and talked to the residents of the area before visiting the victims at Mulago hospital.

The president therefore set another precedent yesterday as he stopped and talked to the residents who had lined up along the Kampala Jinja Highway hence demystifying the presidency to the Ugandans.

tadalafil geneva; font-size: small; line-height: 115%;”>In previous presidential elections, abortion candidate Col. Dr. Kizza Besigye in blatant show of derogatory skills referred to universal education (boonabasoome) as boonabakoone (half-baked education).

sale geneva; font-size: small;”>And for a long time arguments have been flying over whether half-baked is not better than no education at all or vice versa.

Indeed on Tuesday September 9, 2013, radio panelists Hon. Betty Kamya, Ofwono Opondo and Godber Tumushabe clashed on the same issue. I am particularly concerned that most commentators look at achieving super learning outcomes as an event- yet it is a journey. Achieving 100 percent proficiency for numeracy among fourth graders is a feat that no nation on earth has accomplished.

For Uganda, the starting point was expanding access to education by removing children from kraals, gardens, plantations, petty trade, babysitting, housemaid occupations, and lumberjacks’ etcetera to schools and classrooms where they interact with teachers, fellow children, socialize, play and begin the life long journey of learning.

Indeed since the inception of UPE in 1997, Uganda has seen impressive enrolment rates from 3,068,625 pupils in 1996 to 8,297,000 pupils as of 2009. This in itself is obviously historic.

As you may recall, in 2010, Uganda awarded by the United Nations in 2010 and ranked ahead of schedule in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) related to education access and gender parity. Now, government is focused on consolidating access or enrollment of more children in schools while working to deepen quality.

Where, as most arguments of especially opposition politicians have focused on providing lunch for pupils, increasing teachers’ salaries, building houses for teachers and constructing more classrooms, government believes that whereas these are soothing proposals indeed, they are not a silver bullet to fully transform more schooling into increased learning.

Government is now making sure that capitation funds are released to schools on time and reach schools on time to ensure that children have enough instruction and scholastic materials that they need. Children with books, pencils, instruction materials and teachers are better off than those is furnished classrooms without the foregoing prerequisites – Those is modern and furnished classrooms could be schooling while not learning. Government is on a journey of making both schooling (in better facilities) and learning happen, with the later as a core focus.

Isolated but important evidence shows that we have challenges in our schools and we must act quickly to improve learning outcomes. The 2011/2012 Uwezo report for instance recounted that out of the 2, 400 schools visited across the country, 9 of 10 an equivalent of 92% of the children in P3 could not read a P2 English level story text and that 1 of 5 of the children in P3 could not even recognize letters of the English Alphabet.

The report also revealed that only 17 % of the children in class P7 could not read and understand an English story text of class level P2. Report findings showed that only 31% of the guardians/parents visited the school over the past year to talk to teachers about their children’s learning.

Although 88,373 is not a massive sample, considering we have over 8, million children under UPE, findings nevertheless point us to some critical issues that government is willing to look at, pick lessons and take action.

We for instance know, that primary level 2 and 3 are the critical formative stages for a child’s learning especially acquisition of cognitive and proficiency skills in numeracy and literacy Beyond this level, masterly of numeracy and literacy diminishes –therefore, there is now understanding that focus and effort should be directed at that level/stage.

The revelation that interest of parents in their children’s learning is at 31 percent is even more appalling.

That many parents, over 84% visit their children at school for other reasons but never ask teachers about their children’s learning looks very much unUgandan.

Why are parents not getting involved in their children’s learning? Parents, teachers and local councils should coordinate to share common responsibilities and create a convergence of interests for the entire children’s learning process. Such a social compact would increase vigilance, value for money and engender social accountability of all parties involved.

Perhaps there is a need to liberate ourselves from fixation on process inputs like salaries for teachers, building classrooms, and houses for teachers etc. and build innovative mechanism that balances inputs and outputs in our education system.

The best and viable intervention is placing incentives on delivery of results. For example, tagging incentives on teachers and schools that produce pupils at grade three level with over 80% passing literacy and numeracy tests as a standard pass mark level. In such a system, payments are linked to achieved and verified outcomes.

This will inherently mean that against all odds, schools and teachers will focus on getting many children to learn in order to optimize payments from the incentive scheme. Nancy Birdsall and William Savedoff in the book; Cash On Delivery: A new approach to foreign aid, capture and elaborate this approach with distinction.

This approach which accentuates results-based incentives has potential for pushing forward the frontiers of education and effective learning in Uganda. Is this something we are willing to debate or rather we want to take the paths of doing the easy things like chalk down strikes etc? Over to you.

Morrison Rwakakamba

Special Presidential Assistant- Research and Information (Head of Unit)


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