Kampala — Eight out of every 10 primary school teachers who qualified last year can neither read nor solve basic primary-level mathematics questions, according to a new government evaluation, re-confirming a systematic decay in quality of the country's education.
The Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb), which conducted the nationwide assessment, reported that tutors at Primary Teacher Colleges (PTCs) were not any better. Less than 20 per cent of them could interpret graphs in similar exams, while only 5.7 per cent final-year students passed.
The pattern of massive failure was repeated when in-service teachers were tested in the same paper, with only eight per cent able to interpret the graphs.
Tutors performed slightly better than the 30 per cent in-service teachers who passed the number patterns and sequences questions. Trainee teachers tailed at 8.8 per cent.
Some 46,000 Primary Three and Primary Six pupils, alongside 12,300 pre and in-service teachers, as well as 164 tutors participated in the National Assessment of Progress in Education (NAPE) in July last year. They were tested for literacy and numeracy skills.
Uneb's executive secretary Daniel Odongo said the findings were "alarming" and require to be reversed urgently to improve learning and teaching at schools.
"Only 21.8 per cent and 38.8 per cent of Primary Teachers Colleges' Year-Two students were rated proficient in numeracy and literacy in English language, respectively," Mr Odongo said yesterday at the release of the 2015 NAPE results, adding: "These low results should be cause for worry because these students are now in the field teaching our children."
Tutors performed worse in writing skill for English language with 9.6 per cent passing, followed by pre-service teachers and in-service teachers, although both categories performed well in grammar. For the trainee teachers, three out of 10 were able to pass but were more troubled by competence in grammar.
Mr Lutalo Bbosa Sserunkuma, an examination official with Uneb, said: "If teachers lack something, it will (be transferred) to pupils. If the teacher has difficulties in a certain subject, they will not be able to teach it."
These referenced students, in this case trainee teachers with just three months to complete their course, signalled the danger that pupils were unlikely to benefit much from the new crop of teachers.
Ms Rosemary Sseninde, the State minister for Primary Education, raised the possibility that the absurd state of affairs, coupled with teacher and pupil absenteeism, were likely to prevent the country from attaining the targeted middle income status by 2020.
The findings have left government officials scrambling for solutions.
For a start, entry requirements for new entrants to PTCs have been revised to ensure they can cope with the demands, the minister said, without providing specifics.
"No one will join the teaching profession if they have not passed Mathematics and English Language," Ms Sseninde said, adding; "Parents are forgetting that educating their children is their investment. We must all work together to attain vision 2020. Government has put in every effort but parents have failed to feed their children."
Ms Mary Ntete, a ministry of Education official, called for investigations to ascertain whether the use of phones among students could be contributing to the poor performance. According to her, phone users are accustomed to using short text messages (SMS) and slangs while communicating with their colleagues, impairing their ability to write or speak correct grammar.