ARUA. Pawor is an area that could be rightly described as a hard-to-reach sub-county in Arua district. It is located about 39km from Arua town and 29km from Pakwach along Ocoko-Wadelai road.
The sub-county has continued to struggle to register pupils in first grade in primary leaving examinations (PLE).
Pawor sub-county is populated by about 13, 600 people but it has only two government primary schools-Pawor and Akavu primary schools-which are short of teachers.
Boosting of enrollment of 1, 500 pupils, Pawor primary school has a staff ceiling of 24 teachers but only 11 of them are on ground while out of the expected 20 teachers, Akavu primary school has managed to attract only eight.
Reports indicate that most teachers are not willing to work in Pawor given the geographical location of the area evidenced by inadequate social amenities, health services and the bad road network among other inadequacies.
Leaders debate poor performance
According to Mr. Richard Japiem Orochi, the Pawor sub-county chairperson, officials from the education department of Arua have turned Pawor into a punishing ground for errant teachers.
“Teachers who are stubborn or drunkards elsewhere are posted to Pawor as punishment while new teachers take the opportunity to be posted to Pawor only to access the payroll and thereafter, they don’t report for work,” Orochi says.
“Right now, we have very few teachers in our schools and some of them don’t report for work regularly. This has really affected performance and that is why for the last four years I have been here, Pawor has never registered any pupil in first grade,” Orochi added.
Mr. Taban Olama, the acting sub-county Chief equally observed that they have tried their best to ensure that teachers’ houses are in place but most of them have remained empty.
He says teachers’ poor attitude towards Pawor has greatly affected syllabus coverage thus making it hard for pupils to favorably compete with their colleagues in the national primary leaving examinations.
He recommends that officials from the district education department to regularly inspect the teachers posted to Pawor and later take action on those who are not teaching if performance is to improve.
However, to Mr. John Okumu, a teacher of Pawor primary school, the root cause of Pawor schools’ performance predicaments is not teacher absconding but understaffing.
“You may find over 200 children in a class handled by one teacher whereby class control becomes a problem. The government should try to address the teacher to pupil ratio challenge,” Okumu says.
He adds that a teacher is supposed to handle 53 pupils in a class which is not the case in Pawor.
He deflated the accusation of drunken teachers ruining child education in Pawor to past teachers.
“In the 1990s, Pawor was on record for harboring drunkards and stubborn teachers posted from other sub-counties as a punishment. But usually, when such teachers reach Pawor, they reform and that is why I think, the district officials thought it was a form of punishment to post those teachers here,” Okumu claimed.
He insisted that since then, the trend has reduced because the current teachers are committed and normally drink after classes.
Mr Marino Acia, the Arua district education officer (DEO) said: “I know the situation of Pawor in terms of teachers and performance. It is true the number of teachers in Pawor schools is not according to the ceiling and this affects the whole of Arua district.”
He said as a district, they need a total of 5,000 teachers but on ground they are 3,400 leaving a deficit of 1,600 teachers.
“Worst still, we don’t receive fresh funding for recruiting more teachers. So right now, what we are doing is ‘replacement recruitment.’ We are replacing teachers who retired or died using the funds which were allocated in their names,” Acia explained.
Maintaining that the district service commission only recruits competent teachers he says it is the local administration both at the sub-county and school level that are supposed to monitor the performance of teachers.
“It is a common belief that we take drunken teachers to Pawor. What about the new recruits, do we take them there with jerricans of alcohol for them to drink? ” he wondered.
Acia charged that some places like the fishing communities especially along R. Nile are generally alcohol endemic communities and drinking can’t be eliminated from those communities since teachers are part of the community.
Acia says for performance to improve in Pawor, parents must get concerned and support their children in school as well as having strong School Management Committees to monitor the performance of teachers in schools.
Pupils narrate ordeal
Jafar Origa, a primary seven pupil of Pawor primary school explains that in their school, at times teachers report but they don’t teach.
“Some of our teachers are passionate about teaching but there are some who don’t. We normally resort to reading textbooks whenever there are no teachers in class,” says Origa.
He also complains that they are being poorly fed and overworked at home and as a result, they reach to school very late.
Carolyn Pajok, a senior four student of St Francis of Assisi secondary school says she passed in third grade in PLE from Pawor primary school because of teachers who were not regular in class.
“By the time I was in P.7 some of our teachers were coming to class while drunk, others were not teaching us well and all that affected my performance,” Pajok recalls.
To parents, the blame of poor performance in Pawor has to equally be shared among pupils, teachers, leaders and the parents themselves.
Mr. Emmanuel Okecha, 45, a resident of Polual village and a father of ten said their children are not passing well because of the few numbers of teachers compared to the number of children in the two schools.
He also cited fishing in River Nile as another big challenge affecting education in Pawor schools.
Okecha noted that with the little money they get out of fishing, children don’t see the value of school at all, a reason the few who go to school don’t even concentrate in class.
Meanwhile, Mr. Kalisto Olum, 69, blamed parents for not doing enough in supporting their children in school. He noted that buying uniforms, books, and other scholastic materials has remained a problem for most parents in Pawor.
“This problem involves all of us. There is no need to only blame alcoholic teachers and leave other stakeholders out. Instead, let us all play our roles to ensure that our children pass well,” Olum advised.
Relatedly, Mr. Tom Mundua, the school management committee (SMC) chairperson of Akavu primary school said much as teachers are few, parents don’t help matters as they don’t want to contribute to the parents-teachers’ association (PTA) funds which would have helped in improving the teachers’ welfare in the sub-county.
He said each parent is expected to pay shs4, 000 per child in a term as PTA fund for constructing teachers’ houses and paying them some allowances but the money has not been paid by most parents.
To achieve a positive turnaround in the performance of children in schools in Pawor sub-county, all concerned parties must play a mutually supporting role, he concluded.