Education minister issues teacher degree requirement timeline

Education minister issues teacher degree requirement timeline
The Minister of Education and Sports, Janet Kataha Museveni

Kampala, Uganda | URN | Janet Kataha Museveni, the Minister of Education and Sports, has issued fresh guidance regarding the timeline initially established for educators to attain a minimum Bachelor’s degree qualification.

In 2019, the government introduced a transformative teacher policy which among other things phased out lower qualifications for teachers in Uganda. According to this policy, all teachers, from those teaching at the nursery to primary levels, were mandated to hold a Bachelor’s degree. As per the policy, teachers were given a ten-year grace period to elevate their qualifications to the required minimum standard or else leave the profession.

By calculation, this implied that every teacher could potentially be obligated to possess a degree by the year 2030. However, a series of unforeseen disruptions, some stemming from the global pandemic, COVID-19, along with other complications such as delays in enacting the requisite legislation and the establishment of vital institutions like the Teacher Council and the Uganda National Institute of Teacher Education, have played a pivotal role in impeding the policy’s seamless execution.

In light of these challenges, Mrs Museveni has now announced a significant adjustment. She said that the countdown of these crucial ten years will only commence once the relevant legislation is officially enacted.

The minister made the remarks on Friday at State House while releasing examination results of the last cohort of Grade III Teachers from 55 primary teacher colleges. She added that soon she will be tabling the teacher bill in the cabinet but she encourages that in the meantime, nothing stops any teacher who wants to upgrade.

The move to phase out Grade III qualifications for primary teachers and Grade V qualifications for secondary teachers caused anxiety among educators uncertain about meeting the new requirements. They were worried about how the government would ease the financial burden of upgrading, especially with over 250,000 Grade III teachers, almost half of the teaching force, needing support. Limited resources allowed 6,116 teachers to obtain a diploma in education and 1,980 to pursue Early Childhood Development diplomas at Kyambogo University.

The decision to reset the countdown for teachers to obtain degrees was discussed during a Ministry retreat in Kyankwazi in March, yet no official communication followed. It has now been revealed that the Ministry plans to use the time until the Teacher Act is passed to establish necessary institutions, provide guidance, and secure essential funds for policy implementation.

Meanwhile, during the event, Kyambogo University presented the results of 5,576 student teachers, the last cohort recruited into PTCS (Primary Teachers’ Colleges) after completing their O’Level education. However, when releasing the examination results, it was evident that this last cohort had performed poorly compared to the previous five cohorts.

Kyambogo University had consistently seen an increase in the overall pass rate of PTC students from 2017 to 2020, but there was a sudden decline in 2021. According to the statement of results, 37,686 candidates were able to pass the examinations, constituting 67.9 percent of the total, while 1,586 student teachers (28.4 percent) failed and would need to repeat the exams, and 204 candidates received ungraded scores. Among those who passed, only 130 achieved distinctions, while 3,616 obtained credits and 40 received a mere pass.

Annie Begumisa,the Academic Registrar of Kyambogo University attributed the high failure rate to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, he noted that students encountered significant challenges, particularly in the subjects of Mathematics Education and Kiswahili.

However, from Mrs Museveni’s perspective, the performance was less than stellar, especially considering that almost all subjects achieved an overall pass rate of over 97 per cent, except for Mathematics Education and Kiswahili. She attributed this discrepancy to the reforms made in the entry requirements for teacher training.

She emphasized that these reforms are part of a broader effort to enhance the quality of teachers in Uganda. As more reforms are implemented, she believes that the country is on track to produce better Teachers.

With 22 government PTCS already phased out, there were concerns about the fate of students from these colleges who needed to retake their examinations. The minister provided guidance, stating that students who wish to retake their exams should be allowed to enroll without any conditions in the colleges that were not phased out.

Fortunately for the learners, the core PTCs are distributed fairly evenly across the country.

She further directed that Kyambogo University should continue carrying out its responsibilities related to teacher education and training that it inherited from the Institute of Teacher Education Kyambogo. This continuity is necessary until the Teacher Council and the UNITE become fully operational to ensure a smooth transition and prevent disruptions to the ongoing reforms.

Formerly Phased-Out Colleges Find New Purpose In the government’s teacher policy, a total of 22 Primary Teachers Colleges (PTCs) were phased out as part of the official transition away from Grade III and Grade V teaching qualifications in favor of requiring a Bachelor’s Degree in Education.

Since 2019, the Ministry has been engaged in discussions with the governing bodies of these phased-out colleges, many of which are government-owned. However, the Minister has announced that they have now completed the process of repurposing these colleges.

Mrs Museveni did, however, make an appeal to stakeholders, emphasizing that the operationalization of these changes is contingent upon the availability of funds and called for patience in the implementation process.

Among the phased-out PTCs, each institution has been earmarked for specific transformations. For instance, Jinja PTC is in the process of being converted into a secondary school. Meanwhile, Kabukunge PTC, Kaliro PTC, Bikungu, and Bwera PTC are undergoing a transition to become Instructor Training Institutions. Additionally, St. Mary’s PTC Bukedea and Christ The King PTC Gulu have been reconfigured as Health Tutors’ Training Institutions.

Furthermore, six of these PTCs have been rebranded as campuses affiliated with different universities. For example, Kotido PTC has been transformed into the Kotido Campus of Gulu University, Erepi PTC now functions as the Moyo Campus of Muni University, Paidha PTC operates as a campus under Kyambogo University, Kabwangasi PTC serves as a campus for Busitema University, Rukungiri PTC has become a campus of Kabale University, and Canon Lawrence PTC is now operating as a campus of Lira University.

Additionally, four PTCs have undergone a shift to become TVET Institutions. Specifically, Buhungiro PTC has evolved into a TVET Skills Training Institution, Kiyoora PTC now specializes as a TVET Agro-Vet Institution, Rakai PTC has transitioned into a TVET Skills Training Institution, and Kamurasi PTC has been designated as a TVET Skills Training Institution.

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Five PTCs have also been reconfigured to focus on Health Training. For example, Bundibugyo PTC has been transformed into the Bundibugyo Health Training Institution, Kisoro PTC now operates as the Kisoro Health Training Institution, Busikho PTC serves as the Busia Health Training Institution, Kapchorwa PTC has been reestablished as the Kapchorwa Health Training Institution, and St. Augustine’s PTC Butiti now functions as the Kyenjojo Health Training Institution.

Recently, the Ministry of Education relocated all staff from the phased-out PTCs to new stations. However, Elizabeth Rwamwenge, Principal Kisoro Primary Teachers’ College has pointed out that there have been some issues, particularly regarding delays in salary payments for some of the transferred tutors and staff.

In response to these concerns, Dr. Dennis Mugimba, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Education acknowledged that there are indeed issues that need to be resolved between the local government, where the staff were originally employed, and the new locations where they have been posted.

He further mentioned that the Ministry of Finance has been notified about this matter, and steps are being taken to address it promptly. Assurances were given that the affected teachers would receive their due salaries in due course.