Engaging Uganda’s Rural Communities in Education Elevation

July 6, 2015

From a recent study by APHRC and the Iganga Mayuge Health and Demographic Surveillance System (Uganda) public schools were found to outnumber private ones in rural areas, but private schools had – more often – a competitive advantage. This was mainly due to the smaller student-teacher ratios, smaller class sizes and larger textbook-student ratios. Moreover, teachers’ work ethic did not favor those in public schools as more public school teachers were absent, in comparison to private schools, and particularly women. On average teachers taught 11 lessons a week, which translates to 1.3 hours a day; teaching methods were heavily teacher-centred and thus suppress critical thinking among learners; at least one-third of lesson times were spent on activities that do not directly enhance learning; long-serving teachers’ experience did not yield better student performance; and students taught by teachers with higher mastery of subject-matter content did better.

This was a cross sectional study in rural Uganda conducted in mid-2014. The study aimed identifying the key barriers that have most effect on learning outcomes among children attending schools rural settings. Participants were students in primary grade 3 and 6 (P3 and P6), their numeracy and literacy class teachers, head teachers and parents in both private and public primary schools serving children from the IMHDSS households located in Iganga and Mayuge districts.

The finding formed the topical discussions of a validation workshop held in Iganga, Uganda in June 2015. The workshop’s participants were drawn from a wide range of stakeholders in education, such as District Education Officers, head teachers, school management committees, numeracy experts, literacy experts, translator and administrative leaders including Chief Administration Officer, Resident District Commissioner, the local Member of Parliament and religious leaders. Discussions amongst these parties summed the three main focus areas as how to maximize student-teacher contact time, how teacher preparedness can be improved, and how to involve parents more.

“It’s often said that it takes a village to raise a child. APHRC thus took in community views, ideas and solutions to the wanting education sector, which can be used throughout the country to achieve better education”, said Njora Hungi, education researcher with APHRC.

From these discussions, participants suggested that, to maximize student-teacher contact time, both parents and teachers should motivate students to increase school attendance, have teachers equally reduce their own absenteeism and time wastage in class; and generally reduce overcrowding in classrooms. In order to improve the teachers’ preparedness, the participants suggested that government should support teachers to teach better by improving the use of schemes of work and lesson plans; removing unqualified imposter teachers from the system; and encouraging teachers to assess their students based on their own classroom tests.

Parents were also advised to be more involved in the education process. The participants suggested that parents should be encouraged to: provide their children with basic learning materials; show interest in their children’s school work; and take their children to pre-schools, to set a good foundation. Above all, as a long term strategy to reduction of poverty and thus improve parental involvement in education,  family planning was encouraged to parents as the area has the highest fertility rate of slightly over 7 children per household, which is above the national rate.

Further to this discussion, the outcomes will be disseminated to policy makers and stakeholders throughout Uganda, to ensure inclusiveness of all parties’ views in the next steps towards improving education. “We hope that from this comprehensive study and follow up discussion, education needs will be met within Iganga and more widely throughout the country, to mold well-rounded schools and students”, said Richard Naika, a County Administration Officer in Iganga.