By Fortunate Ahimbisibwe
When you decide to send your child to an expensive school, that means you can afford it and you trust the school. It also means that your child will access the best teachers, learning materials and exposure throughout primary school. That’s why you are paying a lot of money, otherwise, there is free primary education (UPE).
If you find yourself in a quarrel with your school or the examiner, then you don’t know why you paid fees. You didn’t pay for grades, you paid for education.
And if your child doesn’t get the grade you expect, you don’t blame UNEB, you blame the school, or even your child.
Taking your child to an expensive school because you want them to get aggregate 4 is a mistake and you will end up frustrated, just like the Greenhill Parents that we have been hearing about on social media.
Primary school is meant to train children to appreciate nature, the community, the human body, and the environment.
In academics, its meant to give children literacy and numeracy skills. Its just a foundation for pupils to prepare for a more brain challenging exercise at secondary level. It doesn’t matter what grades they get in PLE. Experience has shown that average students with aggregate 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 achieve fantastic grades later in life.
Now, irrespective of Grades, all children who are graded up to the 4th division are deemed to have achieved this target and they qualify to join secondary education.
Even in Division 1, there are levels, 4 to 12. This accommodates all levels of excellence, and by any standards, any child who attains a first grade is presumed to be a smart child until the madness of private schools started around our education system. This was facilitated by ranking of schools; a practice stopped by UNEB but still fueled by media.
Parents need to relax and prepare their children for a more challenging academic journey ahead instead of moaning about PLE and blaming UNEB.
I know that what drives this craze about performance is because education has been commercialized, there is a scramble for students at all levels. That’s why private schools are complaining because they fear to lose ‘business’ as parents are likely to withdraw children.
Also worth noting is that for a long time, the performance of Government schools has been embarrassing compared to private schools. Government had pressure and at the same times the duty to improve standards in Government schools by ‘any means.’
It’s a fact government schools mantained a traditonal approach of teaching which is non exam oriented while most, if not all private schools adopted an exam centered approach.
I have always known that if UNEB changed the examination system and assessment to focus and examine students on the general understanding of children, there was going to be a crisis in many private schools. Private schools must rethink the way they teach, the time they give children to grow, the amount of homework they give children, and the general way they impart knowledge. This is a wake up call.
I think the reason we have seen private schools grumbling is because UNEB must have returned to its senses and assessed students based on their understanding not ‘cramwork’. Its also a fact that there is alot of examination malpractice which has been undermining the credibility of the examination system, this has been common with private schools. If UNEB plugged the holes, it’s possible that reality would soon visit.
Nonetheless, parents should be at peace, they got value for money, the general learning outcomes, the exposure these children get from private schools is good enough because of fairly good facilities compared to UPE schools that are grappling with lack of scholastic materials, teacher absenteeism and poor facilities. Low quality remains the biggest challenge to primary education in Uganda.
It would be insane for Government to allow private schools to continue shinning while its own schools are seen to be collapsing after investing millions of money in the UPE programme (900bn annually)…’those who know know.
There is hypocrisy behind why parents are hitting at UNEB. Secondary School Admissions. The competition for what is known as top secondary schools is the reason behind this reaction. Parents are desperate to get their children into Gayaza, Namagunga, Buddo, SMACK, Namilyango, Ntare etc, some for prestige, others because these schools genuinely offer the best education in the country. To get into these schools, pupils need the 4s, and the 5s.
Parents should take the battle where it belongs: compel the Government to develop good secondary schools across the country like it was in the 70s and 80s where every region had a top school that was competitive at the national level, so, there was less competition for a few schools around Kampala. Some of the parents crying foul believe that NRM has done an amazing job, if that is the case then find a good school anywhere in the country and take your child there. If you cant find it, then you know why or you have now known….most of the people making noise didnt even go to these schools, they came from Dr. Obote college, St Joseph’s Layibi, Kigezi College, Namasagali, etc, but all of a sudden, everyone wants their child in a specific school around Kampala.
A good education system is a common good, we should all advocate for ‘good’ secondaries across the country so that the monopoly of the traditional schools can stop. It’s frustrating children who fail to make it there, it’s more frustrating to parents.
The Writer Is A Former Journalist At The New Vision And A Former Communications Specialist At Ministry Of Education And Sports.