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OpEd

Dr. Roy William Mayega: Is UNEB undermarking Kampala Schools?

Dr Roy Mayega shares insight with a colleague at a recent engagement (FILE PHOTO)

Dr Roy Mayega writes…

For at least three years (probably even many more), UNEB seems to have conjured an unwritten policy to under-mark the top schools in Kampala.

Ok, there is a chance it is a systematic problem with the instructional approach of the elite schools, but the patterns with which these once thriving titans are crushing shows clearly that this trend is not occurring by chance alone – at least statistically.

Kampala Parents had no 4s this year. Greenhill Academy, City Parents and Kabojja Primary, to mention but a few were the total shadow of their once glittering performance. Parents and students are described to have been weeping.

Some stormed the school admin offices for answers. These are schools where parents pay for the highest quality of instruction. These are schools where students get every important learning object as long as it is targeted to passing the exam – yet they are trailing the likes of Kakooge Primary.

As soon as you jump out of Kampala, the grades, even in very urban schools in Wakiso District shoot up – Naalya Hillside and Homingsdalen as good examples – Over forty 4’s in each of these schools.

However, even within Kampala District, several tiny wee schools performed much better than the big-names – there is a little school in Kisaasi by the names of St. Angela which had twice the number of 4s that Kabojja for example got.

Conspiracy theories have been swirling around about what might be happening: That the policymakers have a ‘sinister plan to kill the schools’; that the policymakers want to demo that UPE schools are better than private schools. Others are fronting an equity argument as the explanation:

That the D1 cut-off point top-end private schools is 90% and above while that for other schools is 75%. The latter explanation seems to be more prevalent among the people I have talked to – however if it were true, what would be the rationale for the cut-off points and was a proper calibration done before the cut-offs were decided? Anyways, I have interacted with several disappointed parents. But this trend seems to have been going on for several years, worsening every year.

On my part, however, it is a blessing that this trend has been discovered before my own children get to P7 and I have a simple antidote for it. Being observational scientists, some of us have silently resolved that we can beat the system using purely observational methods: Our children will go to the Kampala schools till P6. Then in P7 we shall take them to register in Nakapiripirit P7 school (and other similar schools) only for the purposes of sitting exams there.

They will check into a hotel near the school during the week of exams, and check out immediately after their papers. That is the only sensible solution to this bizarre policy. I mean, what message are we sending to these hardworking little children – that hard work does not pay if you are from Kampala?

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Roy William Mayega is a lecturer at the department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Makerere University School of Public Health, Uganda

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