It is 32 years since government introduced Universal Primary Education (UPE) to ensure increased access to education at primary level.
While more learners have enrolled, UPE schools continue to be lag behind in performance but as YUDAYA NANGONZI writes, recently-released 2019 Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) results show that upcountry UPE schools offer a ray of hope.
When these results are subjected to a UPE yardstick, the most striking aspect is that unheralded schools in the countryside outperform those in Kampala.
Oftentimes when PLE results are released, the ranking of school performance is based purely on grades. However, it is also well-known that private schools hold an advantage over government (UPE) schools in quality of service.
So,in the lists published today, we analyse how government schools performed at aggregate four and five and divisions one and two for similar schools. Out of the 11,882 government schools that have been aggregated, only 71 schools had candidates with at least aggregate four or five.
Last year, at least 540 fours and 1,196 fives were registered in PLE with the exception of results that were withheld. Of those, government schools got only 26 fours and 97 fives respectively.
Bunyangabu-based Rwimi Parents PS leads the pack with the highest number of candidates obtaining aggregate four at three out of its total candidature of 44. It is followed by Mbarara Municipal School, Mugwanya Preparatory Kabojja and Victoria Nile PS with two candidates each.
Incidentally, Kampala doesn't feature with any UPE school among the top 20 with aggregate four. Uganda Martyrs Primary School Rubaga comes in the 21st position as the only UPE School in Kampala with a candidate who obtained aggregate four with a class total of 141.
Kampala's former powerhouses such as Kitante PS, Nakasero PS, Buganda Road PS, Bat Valley PS, East Kololo PS and Shimoni Demonstration schools no longer feature among the best performers, even by UPE standards.
Meanwhile, at division one and two levels for the 71 schools, Mbarara Municipal School with a class total of 391 got the highest number of candidates passing in division one at 280 and 110 in division two.
Mbarara Junior Primary School comes in second position with 174 candidates in division one, Namugongo Girls PS 152, Gayaza Junior School 149 and Masaka-based Hill Public School in fifth position with 139. On this list, Kampala comes in the 25th position.
To understand the strange trend, Patrick Kaboyo, the national secretary of Federation of Non-state Education Institutions (FNEI), says that traditional UPE schools in Kampala are struggling due to lack of dedicated teachers.
"Most of the teachers in big government schools in Kampala started own private schools and they know where to put their focus," he says. "government should remunerate teachers to curtail internal migration of teachers in search for greener pastures. These teachers looked at the future and how they can best appreciate themselves by starting their own schools."
When it comes to better performance of village UPE schools, Kaboyo expresses some skepticism. "That cannot be true [village schools beating Kampala schools] because many private schools with brilliant learners have no examination centre numbers," he says. "So, they teach and only take learners to sit PLE under government schools. Some of the top performers listed could be products of private schools."
At least 695,804 candidates from 13,475 centres registered for PLE in 2019. Of these, 473,893 (68.2 per cent) were UPE beneficiaries and 221,912 (31.8 per cent) private.
All the top 10 best performing private schools charge at least more than Shs 1m to educate a child. Effective this financial year 2020/21, government has increased capitation grant allocated to pupils in primary schools from Shs 10,000 per pupil, per year to Shs 14000.