It is coming to two weeks since the schools reopened for candidate classes but there has been widespread low student turn up in most schools we visited across the country. Last month, President Museveni allowed schools and tertiary institutions to reopen for candidate classes and finalists, respectively and they started reporting on October 15 after a long closure since March 20 due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, schools have suffered low turn up of the candidates. In Kamuli Municipality, Mr Charles Ngobi, the head-teacher of Kamuli Progressive College, said of the 600 candidates they had in the first term for both Ordinary and Advanced level before closure, only 257 have reported back. “More than half of the student population have not turned up yet and we are not sure whether they will come,” Mr Ngobi told Daily Monitor in an interview yesterday. He attributed the low turn up to the costly standard operating procedures (SOPs) imposed by government on schools. “Most parents had not prepared for extra costs, including boarding, which are the result of coronavirus-related restrictions,” he said.
Mr Ngobi added that since the closure was too long, many female candidates became pregnant and cannot return. Mr Swaibu Kasadha, the head teacher of Savannah Primary School in Namutumba Sub-county, reported a similar situation. “Of the 24 candidates l had before Covid-19, only half the number has returned,” he told Daily Monitor. In Mbale, Mr Masudi Kuchana, the chairperson of the Covid-19 taskforce at Nkoma Secondary School, said of the 1,802 expected candidates, only 1,307 have reported back.
“We have found out that more than 30 girls conceived and got married, and boys have quit and started their own businesses,” he said. The rector of St Paul’s Seminary in Kabale District, Rev Fr Felix Odida, said while all the candidates reported back to school, only 60 per cent have paid tuition. In Tororo, majority schools, especially in rural areas, have recorded low turn up of candidates.
At Oriyoi Primary School in Osukuru Sub-county, 33 candidates have not reported out of 111. The head teacher, Ms Anne Mary Akongo, said they are still waiting for the missing candidates. “We have written to their parents but we have not received any feedback,” she said.
In Kaliro, while schools reopened for candidate classes on October 15, the chief administrative officer (CAO), Mr Robert Mulondo, said some girls have not reported because they are either pregnant or have been married off.
In Buyende, the district education officer, Mr Dison Bwire, said 20 per cent of the candidates have not reported back to school. According to him, prior sensitisation, mobilisation and engagement with teachers and parents greatly helped in having the learners report back to school. Mr George Byantuyo, the director of Central College Kamuli, said of the 185 candidates, 165 have returned.
Mr Hussein Mitala, the chairperson of Kamuli Primary Schools Head Teachers Association, said government-aided Primary Schools are being flooded with candidates from private schools that have failed to meet SOP requirements. “We are having the challenge of adopting candidates from private schools. Most parents can’t afford the examination registration fees for candidates. So we are accommodating them,” Mr Mitala said.
In Jinja, the head teacher of MM College, Wairaka, Ms Hilda Namutosi, said of 120 students in both Senior Four and Senior Six, 107 students had reported by yesterday. “Much as parents are sending students to school, some are being challenged by fees. However, the school management and parents have agreed to let the students report with the fees balance for the first term, including Uneb registration fees,” Ms Namutosi said.
In Namutumba District, Mr Charles Kirunda, the head teacher of Kigalama Primary School in Namutumba Sub-county, said before the Covid-19 pandemic, he had 43 Primary Seven pupils, but the number has doubled because many candidates from private schools have joined.
In Apac and Kwania districts, several Primary Seven candidates have dropped out of school for fear of contracting coronavirus. Ibuje Primary School had 59 candidates but by last Friday, only 47 candidates had reported back. Mr Patrick Waca, the head teacher, attributed the problem to poor parenting.
Amilo Primary School also in Ibuje Sub-county had 60 candidates before the closure about now has 51 pupils but the school hopes more will come. Mr Bernard Opio, the head teacher, said: “Parents wanted to see how those who have already reported are coping with life at school. This week, I received very many of them.”
At Agolowelo Primary School in Atongtidi Sub-county, Kwania District, of the 54 candidates, 31 have returned. Mr Bosco Okula, the head teacher, said the parents were not prepared when the government re-opened the schools.
In Gulu, Mr Abala Robert Okello, the head teacher at Panykworo Primary School, reported that many candidates have not returned.
“We have not heard any communication from the pupils who failed to show up,” Mr Okello said.
The same situation was reported at Palenga Primary School, Omoro District, and Olwiyo Primary school in Nwoya District. However, at Rock View Primary School in Tororo Town, only one has not returned of the 46 candidates.
In Kumi, at Wiggins Secondary School, of the 207 candidates expected for O-Level, 165 have returned to school. At Kumi Township Primary School, of the expected 89 pupils, 72 have reported
At Serere Township SS, Mr Paul Edamu, said of the 398 Senior Four candidates, 40 candidates have not reported. He said in Senior Six, 122 candidates have reported, while 15 are still away.
In Kigezi Sub-region, the director of Kabale Trinity College, Mr Joab Tumwebarize, said three quarters of the candidates have reported back.
Bwanika Primary School in Kabarole had 65 students in Primary Seven and 59 have reported. Kiburara Primary School in Kabarole had 96 candidates but 88 candidates have reported. Ms Mary Mutebi, the headmistress of Kinoni Girls School in Rwampara District, said they had 147 candidates in Senior Four but when schools reopened, 145 have reported. “I have been told that the two girls were married off, so they haven’t reported to school,” she said.
Govt schools get more students
In Kalangala, Mr David Tusubira, the head teacher of Kibanga Primary School, a government- aided school, said of the 76 pupils in Primary Seven, only 58 students have reported.
Ms Catherine Kabasoke, the head teacher of Bishop Danstan Memorial Secondary School, said almost half of candidates in Senior Four and Senior Six are still at home.
Ms Jane Nalunga, the head teacher of Sserwanga Lwanga Memorial Secondary School, said some parents have not yet brought back their children due to failure to meet school requirements.
In many of the schools visited in Njeru Municipal Council, Buikwe District, a few students have reported. Teachers said some parents have decided to move their children to other schools to cut costs.
However in Kampala Metropolitan area, many schools reported that majority of their learners returned, and received extra new candidates from other schools.
The head teacher of Budo Junior, Mr Ernest Kavulu, said before the closure of schools, they had 229 candidates and 227 have reported back with two new comers who had issues at their previous schools.
The head teacher of Kololo Secondary School, Mr Edward Kanonya, said only 10 per cent of their learners have not returned.
He said the school had 754 candidates in both Ordinary and Advanced levels before closure and 681 returned.
The head teacher of Kansanga KCCA Primary School, Ms Resty Namiiro, said majority of all their learners have returned and they have received additional new students from other schools.
Among the SOPs issued to the schools for reopening include ensuring a two-metre distance between learners and teachers, compulsory wearing of masks, hand washing facilities and routine screening of learners and staff. The schools must also set up an isolation centre for Covid-19 suspects, recruit a health assistant and full time trained personnel to do temperature screening, among others.