Govt urged to priotise early childhood education in primary schools

MASINDI, May 7, 2024 – Leaders from Masindi district are calling for prioritisation of early child education [ECE] in primary schools owned by government.

ECE is a starting point for a child’s development and the key foundation of the Uganda Educational System. According to experts, it begins from pre-primary education as provided in daycare centres and nursery schools to children aged three through five years. It is enriched by the informal traditional upbringing given to children from 0 through three years which makes them ready for school.

The Masindi Municipality Member of Parliament, Joab Businge urged government to make ECE free and compulsory for all. “ECE must be made universal and compulsory but not leaving it to private schools. ECE is very paramount in the growth of a child but it’s not yet prioritised,” said Businge.

Businge was speaking at a two-day education conference organised by Red Earth Education Uganda, a non-governmental organisation [NGO] promoting education in Bunyoro Sub-region.

He further explained the need to motivate people to go for ECE studies such that the number of teachers in nursery schools can increase.

“There are people who still think ECE teachers are the ones who have failed exams which is wrong. ECE teachers must be qualified teachers who know what they are doing. That is why funding should be committed by government to prioritise ECE in Uganda because this is the foundation of education in the country,” explained the legislator.

He noted that many teachers are quitting the teaching profession because it’s becoming less attractive, adding that motivation is very key.

Meanwhile, the LCV chairperson Kiryandongo district Edith Aliguma explained that ECE has been left to non-government organisations [NGOs] and the private sector, adding that when donors pull out sustainability becomes difficult.

“It’s only the NGOs that have a little bit promoted early childhood education and early childhood development [ECD] in schools. We have a big gap and also little information about ECE establishment in government schools. Not much effort has been put into ECE and yet it is important in the development of a child,” she said.

Responding to the concerns raised, Joseph Kokomo, the Commissioner of Teacher Education Training and Development in the Ministry of Education and Sports, noted that government is ready to support ECD in different aspects.

He added: “Teachers must ensure that they go back to school and upgrade because now it’s a requirement for every teacher to have a degree. We need a teacher who is competent and competitive. For you who are in Bunyoro make use of Bulera Core Teachers College in Hoima City.”

He further challenged Masindi district stakeholders to establish a think tank aimed at improving education standards in the district and the rest of Bunyoro Sub-region.

About 300 people attended the education conference, and were oriented on their roles in fostering education in the district.

On her part, Ednans Kiiza, an educationist warned the authorities against appointing incompetent school managers, saying that this derails school performance.

“Political interference is killing schools. Schools are performing poorly because the people you are appointing are incompetent and don’t know what to do. The people your appointing are not giving time to schools and also do not know their roles. Don’t appoint people because you are rewarding them for supporting you politically,” said Kiiza.

She also said there is a need to identify school managers who understand the different policies regarding education.

“Many policies are changing but the managers are remaining the same which is very dangerous. And sometimes it’s done deliberately by the school heads to fail the managers. Whenever school managers are appointed, they should be oriented on what to do,” she said.

She also warned the school managers to desist from overriding their roles, adding that this is what causes most conflicts in schools.

According to Robert Muhangi the Executive Director Red Earth Uganda, the conference aimed at improving education performance in Masindi district explaining that its learners are still performing below average due to low stakeholder involvement in the education sector. He said most teachers in the district still have limitations in delivering content while local communities are not supportive.

“We are here to get solutions and also to launch a five-year strategic plan which is going to focus on teacher development, leadership and management of education and learning, value-based sports, and organisational effectiveness among others,” he noted.

There was also graduation of 25 ECD teachers who studied from Red Earth Education Uganda through a partnership with Makerere University. The teachers are currently serving in different ECD centres in the region.

During the event, there was also the commissioning of an ECD training centre in Kijungu Cell Masindi Municipality.

Red Earth Education Uganda has also established a nursery school which is used as a demonstration centre.

Sam Peter Ayebale, the Principal Education Officer Masindi Municipality noted that there’s still a problem of literacy and mathematics in Uganda, adding that since Red Earth Education Uganda started working in Masindi district, there has been improved academic performance in primary schools.

Monica Kiiza, the Acting Education Officer Masindi district explained that there is a lack of community support towards education, something she said affects the learner’s performance.

She added: “We are also affected by the high teenage pregnancies, increased early marriages, and dropouts. I call upon the political leadership to help us in addressing these challenges.”

On his part, Emmy Ngabirano, the Resident District Commissioner Masindi commended Red Earth Education UK for supporting Red Earth Education Uganda, saying that the two organisations are adding value to the district.

“I promise to support you [Red Earth Education Uganda] in all aspects. My request is let’s work as a team, as stakeholders, to make education more attractive to different stakeholders,” said Ngabirano.

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