A special drive initiated by Government last year to deal with teachers who dodge classes has started bearing fruit, with a noticeable downward trend to the vice that has been blamed for poor performance of schools.
The pilot programme spearheaded by the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit together with the Ministries of Education, Public Service and Local Government started with a focus on 20 districts, largely from Eastern Uganda.
The districts were chosen on the basis of their perennial poor performance at Primary Leaving Examination results.
The programme which started in July 2017 established a mechanism for monitoring and tracking the presence of teachers and head teachers using a district data reporting tool.
Speaking at the presentation of the preliminary results of the drive on Wednesday 25 April 2018, the head of the Prime Minister Delivery Unit, Professor Ezra Suruma said that teacher absenteeism rates had dropped from 7 percent in July 2017 to 4.9 percent by November 2017.
PLE performance improved by 5% in the 20 focus districts in 2017 compared to 2015, but still remained performing poorly on a national scale.
The Districts are: Bukwo, Kween, Bududa, Bulambuli, Serere, Sironko, Buyende, Namutumba, Buvuma and Bugiri.
Others include; Mbale, Kaliro, Kayunga, Mayuge, Soroti, Tororo, Manafwa, Pallisa, Luuka and Kapchorwa.
Professor Suruma who is also the Chancellor of Makerere University said that at the inception of the drive, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Local Government issued a circular to all Chief Administration Officers to monitor and enforce sanctions and rewards to drive improved teacher attendance.
Suruma said evaluation of validated data on teacher attendance by independent enumerators will commence in the second term of 2018.
The Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda who chaired the meeting, urged the sectors to complement each other through their mandates by coming up with national solutions to address national problems.
“The Delivery Unit is playing a catalytic role to reinforce the sectors. We need to work together to ensure better education for our children,” Rugunda said.
Dr Rugunda said that the drive was in response to the June 2015 directive by President Yoweri Museveni to Cabinet to improve service delivery in health and education ‘decisively.’
Rosemary Sseninde, the State Minister for Primary education said her Ministry has allowed districts to procure vehicles using school facilities grant (SFG) funds to step up monitoring and supervision of schools.
She however noted that her sector has a staffing gap of 22,000 teachers which deprives almost 1 million children the services of teachers on a daily basis.
She said this can only be addressed when the ban on teacher recruitment is lifted.
“We need to mobilize communities and sensitize them on quality of education and school feeding policy. School feeding increases enrolment and performance of pupils,” Sseninde said.
The Minister of State for Local Government, Jenifer Namuyangu said her Ministry issued a circular to all Chief Administrative officers (CAO’s) to monitor and enforce sanctions and rewards to drive improved teacher attendance.
She said during her monitoring visits, she discovered that teachers get salary loans from loan sharks and can’t concentrate on their work.
“Some teachers resort to riding Boda- Boda to earn some money. Others abandon teaching and hire quacks who teach on their behalf in connivance with Head teachers,” said Namuyangu.
The Districts of Manafwa, Bugiri, Buyende, Soroti, Mayuge, Luuka and Mbale have since taken actions to drive performance.
Five (5) ghost teachers have been removed from the payroll in Bugiri,7 other teachers deleted from payroll and 184 warning letters issued in addition to demoting 5 head teachers, issuing 100 thank you letters and submitting names of 94 teachers and 2 head teachers to district service commissions for disciplinary action.