17 February 2019

Uganda: Find Long-Term Solution to Teacher Shortage Dilemma

editorial

Last week we published two related stories that highlight a key problem in our education sector: shortage of teachers in government schools. In one of the stories, Dokolo District is said to be grappling with an acute shortage of teachers which, according to local officials, is affecting performance and management of the schools.

The numbers offer more insight into the seriousness of the problem. For instance, at least 1,091 teachers are required to teach in 60 government primary schools in Dokolo District. But effective teaching is not possible because at present, there are only 740 teachers to cover these schools. This leaves a staffing gap of 351 teachers.

This contrasts with sections of the Local Government Management and Service Delivery Operational Manual of 2009, which spells out the minimum standards for schools. One of the set guidelines is that one teacher should teach 53 pupils and 55 pupils to study in one classroom.

Some of the requirements the manual spells out may be difficult to achieve in the short-term given the appalling state of many public schools in rural areas but Dokolo's predicament is critical because the national teacher to pupil ratio stands at 1:50 yet for Dokolo, it is at 1:90. According to the district's educatio officer, Mr David Eryatu, there are only 28 substantial head teachers in Dokolo and 42 are just caretakers.

Shortage of teachers and related concerns in the education sector such as poor state of government schools, are neither unique to Dokolo District nor restricted to primary schools. A story published in the same edition with the Dokolo story last week indicated that government was set to hire 3,400 teachers to fill secondary education teaching vacancies.

While it is difficult to put precise figures to the teacher shortage dilemma in government schools across the country, there is general consensus that the problem exists and a solution must be found, more so because there are several qualified teachers awaiting recruitment. In the on-going recruitment exercise, the Education Service Commission received a record 34,000 applicants for the 3,400 secondary school teaching vacancies and all the teachers met the requirements.

The government has prioritised sciences, which requires a good foundation from formative years yet the national examination results often show that science subjects register poor results. In January last year, the Ministry of Education promised to recruit 2,000 science teachers.

The long-term solution to the perennial teacher shortage in schools, therefore, lies in timely recruitment and equitable distribution of teachers - particularly in key areas of sciences - in all regions for the benefit all learners.

The issue: Teacher shortage

Our view: The solution to the perennial teacher shortage in schools, therefore, lies in timely recruitment and equitable distribution of teachers - particularly in key areas of sciences - in all regions ...

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