By M. G. Katusabe – Ssemwezi
The New Vision paper of Friday 31st May 2019 quoted the World Bank’s (WB) 13th Edition of the Uganda Economic update report, recommending to the Uganda Government to scrap the Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) and implement the policy on automatic promotion. The WB’s advisor on global education was reported to have acknowledged that the recommendation was controversial and would not come easy. He said the recommendation would save millions of money and improve the quality of education.
The recommendation springs from the Bank’s finding that the rate of transition from primary to secondary has continued to drop. Repetition in lower primary has led to a bulge in the early classes. The report argues that this leads to inefficiency and affects the quality of education. Therefore, the WB prescription is that PLE be scrapped and pupils should transit to another level – regardless of attained standard.
It is a shame that we cannot offer acceptable attainment standards to our children particularly those in rural Uganda. When I went to primary school in the 1960s, I started by writing on banana leaves with a pencil and even a sharpened stick could do the same job. That is right; a stick. I then “transited” to writing on a slate. Another transition declared me worthy of writing in a half exercise book with a pencil until I graduated to using a whole exercise book and a fountain pen. The rest is history.
Why was this possible at Bunena Primary School, located in Kitagwenda County of Kamwenge District; a typical rural setting but is not the case today? Simple response – we had great professional dedicated teachers who cared for our education and who enjoyed their work. Their productivity was high.
A miserable teacher in poor working conditions cannot deliver quality education. Period. The sorry state of many of our schools is common knowledge. Just travel a few kilometres into a rural setting and verify this.
Back then, we worked hard to achieve; read, write, get the arithmetic correct and speak English. What is the scenario today? We have illiterate children if they are not among the privileged class going to good private or international schools. But WB recommends they should transit in that state! How will scrapping PLE and automatic transition help the child make progress?
WB recommends continuous assessment to replace PLE. This is a good thing to do but if those meant to implement it are not motivated it will come to naught.
The repeaters are blamed for attracting big bills and rendering teachers exhausted through over working but WB does not say why in the first place this condition exists. Uganda subscribes to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children (UNCRC) yet appears to be in cohort with the WB to violate the rights of children to education. If the children were able they would challenge the system and drug the perpetrators to the International Criminal Court for trial.
A child will be happy to learn from a conducive environment. These poor schools lead to apathy and disaffection of school leading to high dropout and decreasing rates of transition. Children have a right to meaningful education and not a right of simply walking through the system in a bid to improve transition rates.
Today we are in the e-world. How many of the repeaters have ever touched a computer button in our schools let alone the teachers. If the beneficiaries of our system cannot even, make good use of the traditional pen and paper what are their chances of surviving in the e- world? Provide adequate and appropriate teaching materials. If the WB cannot look into the question of funding the factors which lead to low transition, then the WB is taking this country for a ride in the wilderness.
The children are thirsty for real education. Therefore, WB if your intention is to help the child, think again: what leads to low transition?
The Author is the Academic Registrar of Victoria University
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