Growing in Faith and Knowledge in Uganda: Education in Church-Founded Schools

GROWING IN FAITH AND KNOWLEDGE IN UGANDA:

EDUCATION IN CHURCH FOUNDED SCHOOLS

 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith ….. Knowledge….. … they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ 2 Peter 1: 5,8

 The Church of Uganda (COU), as a faith-based Foundation Body, has comparatively the largest number of education institutions at almost all levels of education in the country. Hence it is the biggest faith-based stakeholder in education. Currently, the COU runs various categories of educational institutions that offer formal and non-formal education and are open to every Ugandan irrespective of their creed, race, ethnicity and/or political affiliation: 600 (8% of the total) pre-primary schools, 5,118 (33.3%) primary schools, 460 (17.4%) secondary schools, 50 (33.6%) business, technical, vocational and training schools, institutes and colleges, 11 (22%) primary teachers colleges, 4 national teachers colleges, 6 university colleges and full universities (Uganda Christian University, Ndejje, Bp Stewart, Busoga, All Saints Lango and Bp Barham University Colleges) with two of the universities having charter status (Source: EMIS 2009). The total enrolment across all the levels of the COU- founded educational institutions is close to 4 million.

We applaud the Government of Uganda for introducing Universal Primary Education (UPE) and Universal Secondary Education (USE) in 1997 and 2007 respectively. The primary purpose was to increase access to the eligible population, increase the literacy rate in Uganda, reduce the fees burden on parents, reduce poverty in society and reduce the burden of disease.  The programmes were meant to enhance equitable access to conducive, child-friendly, quality, relevant and affordable education for all children of both sexes, all categories and in special circumstances (Education Act, 2008). The main goal was to provide the minimum necessary resources to enable Ugandan children of school age to enter and remain in school and complete the primary cycle of education. But all this has resulted in numerous challenges and we face major hurdles within the current education system.

Moral decadence, explosion in immoral practices, low discipline standards and apparent loss of professionalism

The head teacher and the teacher were traditionally taken to be the role models, the persons living an exemplary life, the ideal leaders and the inspirers in society. They were expected to behave in an acceptable manner, to be the example, yet they are generally no longer up to those standards. Inadequate school inspection and supervision of education institutions creates a vacuum that has been filled with all sorts of development, including moral degeneration, decline in the academic, disciplinary, professional and hygiene standards, poor teaching and learning. So we see media reports such as School closed over defilement due to public outcry after three pupils were impregnated by some school officials’ or Pupils of Kyaterekera Parents Primary School in Buyaga, Kibaale district Tuesday morning staged a violent strike over what they called poor administration’ (New Vision 16 Oct. 2014 and 23 Oct, 2012 respectively).

The elusive enrolment trend and very high drop-out rates

The enrolment growth rate has remained inconsistent, with the highest rate posted in 2002 (6.6%) and the lowest growth rates recorded in 2004 (-3.40%) and 2011 (-3.0%).  The new entrants in Primary Grade 1 (P1) aged 6, as a percentage of 6 year olds in the population, on average increased by about 4 percentage points between 2005 and 2012. However, it still left about 40% of the eligible population not accessing primary education. The apparent present enrolment is further marred by under/over age enrolment.  Less of the eligible population is joining the UPE Program at Grade 1. The survival rate from P1 to P5 has staggered between 50% and 60% in a period of eight years from 2005 to 2012. Only an average of 30% of the children enrolled in P1 reach P7. For various reasons they drop out on the way.

The average ratio of enrolled secondary school students aged 13-18 to the number of children of the same age range in the population is only 22%. The trend over the years 2005-2012 has shown a dismal increase. The USE average drop-out rate stands at 66.3% – the majority of the students who attend USE do not complete their years of study.   Yet of the 33.7% of the students that complete S4 only an average of 46% join S5 wherever they choose to go.  A whopping average of 54% generally drop out with perhaps only a few joining other post “O” Level education institutions.

Pupil/classroom ratio and pupil/teacher ratio

The current average pupil/classroom ratio in Uganda is 83:1 with some places like Arua District as bad as 114:1, against the recommended 52:1.  In addition, 35% (2.8 million) of the pupils in UPE continue to study under trees or in dilapidated structures which pass for classrooms. This has created unfriendly teaching-learning environments with a negative impact on learning outcomes.  In contrast to the above scenario in government aided schools, the average pupil/classroom ratio in private primary schools ranges from 43:1 to 31:1. This would seem to explain why they are performing relatively better at the Primary Leaving Examination (PLE) despite the fact that their payment to teachers is much lower than it is in government aided schools.

UPE Schools present very high pupil-teacher ratios.  Nationally, the pupil/teacher ratio (PTR) stands at an average of 60 pupils per teacher, while varying from region to region and with ratios up to 200:1 in lower primary in some schools. In some districts such as Kabong, Kitgum and Pader, the ratios reach 114, 93 and 86 pupils per teacher respectively. Regrettably the teacher is expected by all stakeholders to be effective with such huge numbers of learners and inadequate teaching aids. This translates into unmanageable workloads and very low teacher/pupil attention with resultant low proficiency in learning achievements.

 Feeding as a basic children’s right

Over 80% of UPE children in the rural areas do not eat lunch on a daily basis, while 25% of UPE children in urban areas, where the Government allows schools to charge a voluntary fee for feeding children at school, do not have lunch due to an inability to pay. Most of these are vulnerable children – orphans and those from poor families. They are not able to concentrate on learning due to hunger and hence they either drop out of school or continue to present very low learning achievements. Although food is a fundamental right and parents need to be compelled to make provision for mid-day meals in schools, it needs to be done through forcing them with legislation on the matter. A hungry child is unhealthy and is likely to become permanently mentally retarded or develop chronic illnesses.

Working for change

Therefore, although we all boast of increased enrolment rates of learners today in Uganda with the introduction of Universal Primary Education and Universal Secondary Education, there is a need to look at the quality of education that these children are getting. There is a remarkable difference between the products of the education system today and those of previous years.  The rural-urban variances show that things are changing for the worse; and in order to change the situation the government and other stakeholders in education, including foundation bodies such as the Church of Uganda, should address the identified improvement needs, revisit the policies and invest more resources. There is a need to work on factors that will see children acquire knowledge, skills and behaviour change, through a school-friendly environment, safeguarding standards, and motivated teachers. We all have to see that the education system creates an environment that is engaging, fulfilling and interactive for the children who grow through it to be useful citizens of their motherland Uganda.

The COU Education Department, whose generic Vision, Mission and Goal Statements are respectively “An enlightened Christian community”, “To equip the people of God with knowledge, attitudes, values and skills” and “ To empower the church for effective provision of holistic education services”, has been doing all in its mandate to help the situation in the following ways:

 Increasing involvement of Church Leaders and all Church organs/structures – the Provincial Assembly, the House of Bishops, Provincial Departments, the archdeacons, vicars, priests, lay readers, parish councils, school management committees, school boards of governors,  heads of Anglican institutions, chaplains  and teachers – through sensitization and conferences, seminars and consultative meetings, forming regional linkages and having policy guidelines on matters of governance.

Engaging and working with other stakeholders, including Parliament, Government, respective Ministries and institutions such as Uganda Examination Board, National Curriculum Development Centre, local and national political leadership, other faith foundation bodies, Uganda Joint Christian Council, business enterprises, non-government organisations, multinational organisations, and the national Teachers’ Association, so that matters of education are given the due attention and urgency they need.

Increasing Capacity, through long term development projects, such as infrastructure developments for education institutions, income generating activities, land consolidation and effective utilization, the training of teachers in appropriate skills, sensitizing all Anglican heads of institutions, engaging all school management committees and boards of governors, making sure all teachers are practising their code of conduct, and ensuring the presence of Church supported school inspectors.

 Challenges

We as a Church realize that we face many challenges: the laxity and apathy of some church members and leaders; internal competition, conflicts, rivalry and accountability issues; our inability to enforce Christian values and moral  standards; our inability to strengthen approved policies, school curricula and systems, a lack of clear priorities; reluctance to invest in the most critical areas; inadequate funds, different partner priorities or focus and donor fatigue; a lack of aggressive  effort  to influence Government and political leaders, to mention but a few.

As we set out to meet these challenges, we hope and pray that the education system and the Church will achieve what is desired for our children and for the future of Uganda.   To God be the Glory.

Revd. Richard Mugume Rukundo is the Assistant Provincial Education Coordinator, Church of Uganda

The Church of the Province of Uganda Education Department, P.O.Box 14123, Kampala, Uganda. Tel: +256772388992, childrensministrycou@gmail.com