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Learner’s Opinion Neglected As Schools, Parents Force S.3 Students To Register For UCE Exams

Senior Four Candidates at Kololo Senior Secondary School are checked before they enter for the first UNEB exam

Following the pronouncement by the Ministry of Education and Sports that the 2018 Primary Seven leavers will be allowed to register for this year’s Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) examinations, schools and parents have started pushing senior three learners to register for the examinations.

URN understands that ever since the pronouncement was made, several parents and teachers are persuading senior three students to register for this year’s national examination. One such child is seventeen-year-old Rose Owekisa (not real name) a student at Midland Parent’s school Kajjansi in Wakiso district.

She is caught between the wishes of her parents and teachers. When schools reopened in January this year, Owekisa, who was in senior two was automatically promoted to senior three as the ministry of education had guided.

A month later, school administrators have been calling her parents, saying that this learner can register in senior four. When our reporter asked her if she wanted to sit for the examinations, she was indecisive.

“The teachers told us that we can register for senior four and several of my classmates have accepted and are in the process of registering. I think if I read, I might be able to pass but the only problem is that I have not been having serious classes during the school closure,” says Owekisa.

She explains that for the last weeks, teachers have been subjecting them to drills and tests as a way of checking who is ready and who is not. “Recently we did a physics test and results are not yet out.”  Although the school would want the learner to register, one of her guardians is suspicious that the teachers are not coming with clean hands.

The parent, whose name has been withheld, says that this can be one of the tricks being played by the school to get money since senior four learners are paying more.  According to the guardian, the learner is unprepared and if registered she is bound to fail.

The Guardian says that the learner is generally not so bright even before factoring in the fact that she has been out of school for nearly two years. Owekisa’s average mark in senior two and one was 50 percent.   

The guardian adds he expected that it would be the school’s duty to tell whether the learner is academically fit considering her record and current competence level. He, however, says this seems to have been overlooked in the name of money.

One of the administrators at Midland appeared more concerned about when the parent would pay the inflated registration fees of Shillings 250,000 than the academic ability of the learner.

 When asked whether the learner who spent two years at home due to the COVID-19 induced school closure can seat and pass the national examinations, the administrator could not give a definite answer.

“The teachers will assess the learner, but now we are more focused on parents paying so that we do early registration,” she said.  Besides teachers and schools, some parents are also making endless visits to schools to persuade teachers to register their children. In several interviews, teachers said that the parents are not looking at the academic potential of their children but rather fronting factors like the growth of their children.

Emmanuel Ssempiira, the director of studies at Kampala High School, says that at first, the school had a basis to reject the parents’ proposal since they were following the government’s directive on school reopening that learners automatically move to the next class but not to skip any class.

“Given the fact that our school didn’t have a formal teaching-learning program during school closure, we could not promote a S.2 learner to S.4 after all the UNEB registration requirement for UCE registration were clear; a learner must have spent a minimum of 4 years in O’Level,” Ssempiira said.  

The D.O.S adds that; “Now that UNEB’s portal allows 2018 PLE leavers, many parents are coming back to have their children register. Many claim that they had private arrangements where their children were taught during the lockdown. Some learnt something while others were green. We try to explain to them, it is fortunate that at our school, every parent who came for this has been explained to and backed off but colleagues more so in private schools are telling different stories.”     

As Ssempiira says, in private schools the story is different as parents are influencing teachers to register their children. However, we have learnt that even some schools are calling parents to inform them about the possibility of their children being registered.  

Peter Opolot, the Deputy Headteacher in charge of academics at Old Kampala SS, says that it’s okay for learners who were in S.2 to want to run fast having been given an opportunity. The educationist is however pessimistic that there is any student who could have adequately prepared more so in subjects that require practical skills.     

 During a recent interview, Dr Denis Mugimba, the Ministry of Education spokesperson empathized that while teachers and parents would wish that everyone who was in S.2 in 2020 be registered, the learners must be ready. Mugimba says the window was created to ensure that efforts of learners who continued learning during lockdown are delayed in the system.

-URN

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