ARUA. Questions as to why many children in West Nile government-aided schools keep performing poorly in primary leaving examinations (PLE) has largely remained unanswered as the issue rages on.
The continuous poor performance is amidst preventable parental, governmental, school and community factors which many stakeholders keep ignoring, but instead blame each other.
For instance, Ezuku primary school in Vurra sub-county, Arua district has historically been a good performing school but of late, this has changed.
In the past three years from 2017, the school has failed to register a single first grade with the best getting 14 in the 2019 PLE results.
The trend of poor performance is similarly true for other Vurra sub-county schools like Eruba, Ewava, Ringili, Ajono, and Ayelembe spreading out to the entire West Nile region.
What is the problem?
Uganda’s state minister for Agriculture, Mr Aggrey Henry Bagiire says poor feeding by parents immensely contributes to the underdevelopment of a child’s brain, a practice so common in most public schools in the region.
“20 years ago, Uganda got men and women of high profile from this region (West Nile) but shall we have the same kind of people in the next 20 years when 40 per cent of the children are stunted?” the minister asked.
He said this while mentioning influential Ugandan leaders from West Nile like the late Francis Ayume, late Dick Nyai, Mr Kasiano Wadri, Ms Grace Freedom Kwiyucwiny, Mr Mario O’biga Kania, Gen. Moses Ali, Mr Caleb Alaka and the fallen President of Uganda, Idi Amin Dada among others.
Unfortunately, the poor feeding habits and malnutrition is happening amidst many parents producing food from their gardens.
The best of such food is usually sold off than storing reasonable amounts for family consumption with resultant monies spent on alcoholism.
Mr Luis Orodriyo Nyatibo, a primary seven teacher at Ezuku primary school says attending class on empty stomach makes pupils lose concentration in class especially in the afternoon.
Attempts to introduce feeding programs in schools like Ezuku have also been hampered greatly by erratic payments by parents.
Uncontrolled disco dances
The headteacher of Ezuku primary school, Mr Steward Lulua Olea blames parents for failing to control their children.
“I have children and when I was bringing them up, I showed them my responsibility as a father; you must know the movement of your children but if they are left to wonder anyhow, these are the kind of results we keep getting,” Lulua said.
Mr Nackson A’daku, the Vurra sub-county chairman agrees to the notion of the rampant illegal discos in the sub-county which he says have had a negative impact in schools.
“Some of these children boldly go for discos as their parents keep looking on. So why don’t they check their children at night?” A’daku asked as he vowed to stop any illegal night disco dances in 2020.
He says the ‘my children have defeated me’ syndrome among parents has exposed many children to teenage pregnancy and early marriages.
According to Nyatibo, many pupils of the school go for discos instead of profitably utilizing their time for studies.
He said this is being evidenced in them mostly on Mondays when they sleep a lot during lesson time because of night discos over the weekend.
“Early in the morning, they may appear lively. But when the sun starts rising, you will see some of them start dosing in the class in which they lose concentration when a teacher is teaching,” Orodriyo said.
What can be done to improve performance?
Authorities at Vurra sub-county are intensifying efforts to curb the rampant disco dances whose customers are mainly school-age going children, a move they see as a way of improving performance.
Mr Olea requests the government to increase the number of teachers to offset the unbalanced teacher-pupil ratio so that irregularities in syllabus completion is suppressed.
He says with adequate parental support especially in the school feeding program, the performance of pupils is likely to improve.
Education officials speak out
Commenting on the ever-declining performances, the acting district education officer (DEO) Mr Henry Wadri says tougher measures are going to be instituted to curb laziness.
“Being a teacher is by choice and since that’s the profession they chose, they need to fulfill what is required of them. I want to caution teachers that as they do their work, they should put the child as the top priority,” The DEO warned.
Wadri acknowledges the staff shortages not only at the school level but also at the district education office where most of the inspectors have retired, something which he noted as the cause of laxity among teachers.
He also calls upon school management committees (SMC) and parents, teachers’ association (PTA) to supervise teachers and provide accommodation within schools so that they are easily managed for better results.
In the results of the 2019 PLE for Arua district (including the current Ma’di Okollo district), Ayivu county produced 168 pupils in first grade, Terego 35, Vurra 18, and a paltry 3 from lower Ma’di and Zero from Upper Madi Okollo.