Promotion of learners perturbs schools in Uganda as more classes return

Uniformed kids on their way home from school
Uniformed kids on their way home from school

Kampala, Uganda | URN | Parents and schools in Uganda are locked in a heated discussion over the promotion of learners who have been studying during the lockdown.

A cross-section of learners, mainly from urban schools, has been studying online, over the last one year, since the closure of schools. The parents are now demanding that the children should be assessed for promotion instead of remaining in the same class for another year.

The discussion on promotion of learners follows the release of a new school calendar, which indicates that all learners will be expected to return to school in June 2021, to complete the disrupted school year. The new academic year will then start in August 2021. 

Elizabeth Mande, a 64-year-old grandmother and resident of Bukoto, notes that enrolling the children in the same classes in which they were before the closure of schools means that all the effort and the money spent on online programmes was a waste.

Some school administrators have already promoted learners who have covered their respective class syllabi and achieved the required competencies and learning outcomes.

“Teaching and learning activities have been running smoothly. Learners have been attending and the syllabus is complete. Our school year is normal and all our learners who attended the online classes have already been promoted to the next class,” one primary school headteacher told this publication on condition of anonymity.

In the school, they currently have two sets of primary six classes; one which was in Primary Six by lockdown and are now temporarily in Primary Six waiting for current candidates to create space, and another class which was in primary five before the lockdown and have been promoted to Primary Six. One of the classes is now being taught Primary Seven content.

“The only challenge is that the next P.7 class will stay longer in the class as they will have to wait for the national examination, this will give them an extra term in the class next year,” the headteacher told this publication in an interview. 

Thomas Kitandwe, the Headteacher of  Kampala Quality Primary School, acknowledges that learners who have attended any form of learning during the lockdown and have achieved the learning outcomes can be promoted.

Kitandwe, however, notes that this is going to be done with strict assessment and checking of content covered by the learners during the lockdown.  

But Kitandwe adds that they have been challenged by a section of parents whose children did not participate in the teaching during the lockdown but insist on promoting them. He notes that such parents argue that they had employed other forms of learning like homeschooling but to him, having a teacher keeping the child busy doesn’t necessarily mean that the syllabus was covered.

On the contrary, some schools which have been conducting online learning have refused to opt for promotion of their learners on condition that the academic year 2020 is still formally running. For instance, Samuel Birungi, the Headteacher of Hormisdallen Primary School-Kyebando says that promoting learners before the end of the academic year might disrupt the entire school calendar.

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To him, this means one learner would have covered three classes in two years which is practically impossible. He says that all parents who have fronted the idea have been advised to either abide by the school’s decision or look for another school.  

Dr Kedrace Turyagyenda, the Director of Education Standards at the Ministry of Education and Sports, says that all learners regardless of whether they had any form of learning during the lockdown or not are returning to the classes they were in before the lockdown.

Dr Turyagyenda notes that it is unfair and unprofessional for schools to promote some of the learners that studied online because not all learners were able to access this kind of teaching. She adds that during the lockdown, parents all over the country faced several challenges, mostly financial and couldn’t afford the programs.  

She adds that any school which wants to promote learners should first present their case to the Ministry of Education so that it is reviewed.