Teacher absenteeism, lack of toilet facilities and inadequate classrooms are some of the challenges crippling learning in some government-aided primary schools in Bugisu Sub-region.
A mini survey conducted between September and October by Daily Monitor on the state of schools in the three districts of Manafwa, Sironko and Bududa, noted lack of teachers' accommodation, poor infrastructure and access to clean water, among others, as challenges the schools face.
At Buraba Primary School in Bushiyi Sub-county in Bududa District, locals said the teachers had shunned the school over long distance and lack of accommodation.
"The school has only four teachers, who are all male and they trek a distance of more than 30 kilometres to and fro each day," Mr Apollo Wambete, a resident and parent, said.
The school, which neighbours Mount Elgon National Park, has an enrolment of 350 pupils.
The facility was established in 1983 as a community-founded school before it was taken over by government.
Mr David Walimbwa, the school head teacher, said they were forced to call off Primary Seven due to lack of teachers.
"The government should think of constructing staff houses because this is the reason why teachers shun this school," he said.
The teachers and local leaders say government's failure to list Bugisu districts as beneficiaries of hard-to- reach allowance has also made matters worse.
In Sironko, schools including Nabodi Primary School in Zesui Sub-county, Bumatofu Primary School in Buhugu Sub-county, Bumasifwa Primary School in Bumasifwa Sub-county and Bumadibira Primary Schools in Bunyafu Sub-county, had similar challenges, with some schools having pupils studying under trees and others in temporary structures.
Mr Christopher Wadidi, the chairperson of the school management committee of Bumadibira Primary School, said although the school runs from Primary One to Primary Seven with 518 pupils, only four classrooms are permanent structures.
"The remaining three classes conduct their lessons in a sorry state of temporary shelters, which could collapse any time," he said.
The school head teacher of Bumadibira Primary School, Ms Alice Alupo, said: "We have written to the sub-county and district leadership to support us with new permanent class rooms but nothing has been done yet."
Mr Wilson Nasina, the head teacher of Nabodi Primary School in Sironko District, said they asked the government to gazette the schools in mountainous areas such that they can get hard-to-reach allowances in vain.
In Manafwa District, Ms Milka Kitui, the headmistress of Bubulo Mixed Primary School, said all structures at the school are not in good state.
"The structures need renovation because they are dilapidated. We also lack staff quarters... Others foot and some use bicycles and whenever it rains, they come late," she said.
Mr Simon Moses Namara, the head teacher of Butoto Primary School, said they not only have a few teachers but also lack pit-latrines for them.
"We are now instead using community latrines since teachers can't share the same latrines with pupils," he said.
Mr Isaac Matanda, the district councillor representing Kato Sub-county in Manafwa District, said: "Most teachers come to school late due to bad roads and leave early. We cannot improve academic performance if this continues, "he said.
National academic performance records show a bleak academic record for the Bugisu Sub-region. The 2008 Primary Leaving Examination results show that Bugisu had only 371 out of 22,317 candidates in Division One, while 5,016 candidates failed, representing a national failure rate of 23 per cent.
The Manafwa district educational officer Mr Eridad Mudangi, acknowledged the challenges but said the government is working slowly to improve education in the district.
"Step by step the government is considering the issues but all cannot be handled at once," he said.
Mr Wilson Watira, the LCV Bududa district, said they have tried to recruit qualified teachers to work in hard to reach schools but some quit because of the terrain.
"The teachers are supposed to serve anywhere in the district but some refuse, which is against standing orders,"he said.
Mr Watila reiterated that the government should consider listing Bugisu districts as beneficiary of hard- to- reach allownance to motivate teachers.
"This would reduce absenteeism and improve learning,"he said.
Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga while in Bududa district in August, this year, also expressed shock over the government's failure to enroll Bududa as one of the district entitled o hard-to -reach allowance.
The Bududa has 89 primary school with only 53 substantively appointed head teachers and 37 deputy head teachers. The remaining are in acting positions.
The Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Ms Tappy Namulondo, said they advertise but fail to get qualified applicants for the positions.
The Sironko district Woman Member of Parliament, Ms Florence Nambozo said government should not neglect neglect teachers, adding that teachers play a vital role.
The Manafwa District educational officer, Mr Eridad Mudangi, said the government is working slowly to improve education in the district
Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga while in Bududa in August expressed shock over government failure to enrol Bududa as one of the district entitled to hard-to-reach allowance.
The Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Ms Tappy Namulondo, said they advertise but fail to get qualified applicants for the positions due to the poor school conditions.