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The management of universal primary education in uganda
J.C. Munene


1.1 Critical Factors in Primary School Performance in Ugandan Schools

Prior to the introduction of the Universal Primary Education (UPE), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in collaboration with the Ugandan Government, had undertaken to improve the quality of teaching and learning in primary education. Some of the activities in the project were designed to equip primary schools with the instructional material, textbooks and syllabi they required. Others included the improvement in the management of primary education, the training of primary teachers (Teacher Development and Management System), and the construction of new primary schools in areas where they would be accessible to a larger population of the primary school going age group.

The author was commissioned, along with a number of colleagues, to evaluate the project. The team employed participatory learning and analysis methods to assess what teachers, pupils, head teachers, school management committees, parents and communities do. Data was collected on school performance. Unexpectedly, the number of books available in the schools did not relate to school performance as indicated by the number and quality of grades. Rather, school performance depended on a set of teacher and pupil practices. The Improving Education Quality (IEQ) Research (Uganda IEQ Core Team 1999; Munene et al. 1997; Carasco et al. 1996) isolated a number of teacher practices intensifying and decreasing the use of textbooks and improving school performance. They also indicated children practices affecting learning readiness. Teacher practices decreasing the use of textbooks included the following:

  • Writing lesson objectives for the classroom periods, and in a way that enabled the teacher to measure whether or not the objectives were achieved;
  • Selecting and preparing learning materials to reflect lesson objectives;
  • Selecting and using teaching methods that physically engaged students in the achievement of lesson objectives;
  • Controlling the class in order to achieve lesson objectives within the available time; and
  • Designing and implementing a classroom seating arrangement that helped all students to attain lesson objectives.

The practices found to be related to a decreasing use of textbooks and negatively impacting on school performance included the following:

  • Relying on personal knowledge, particularly study notes made during teacher training;
  • Borrowing teaching notes from other teachers;
  • Giving a “half-dose” to pupils (deliberately teaching less than what the curriculum called for);
  • Spending time in activities that generate personal income in order to supplement salary; and
  • Directing and pacing teaching in large classes for the pupils who understand.
The specific pupil practices identified in the research as contributing to learning readiness included:

  • Going to school daily and working hard at writing and reading;
  • Keeping one’s exercise book in good condition and reading all the lessons;
  • Playing good games, keeping good hygiene, and looking smart
  • Being disciplined and attentive in class; and
  • Avoiding such actions as smoking, having sex, abusing teachers and the community on the way to and from school.
These concrete, qualitative findings shift attention away from secondary data, such as numbers of scholastic materials, including textbooks, available to what actually takes place in classrooms. They provide clear guidance regarding what needs to be changed in order to improve learning in schools. They demonstrate the importance of school climate, seen from the point of view of pupils and teachers. They also make it easier to develop valid and appropriate theories to account for why and how some pupils pass, while others fail.
This chapter is divided into five sections. The first section presents the general introduction, comprising of background and statement of the problem. The second outlines the general research question, as well as the specific research objectives. The third presents and discusses social capital as the concept providing a central framework for understanding the difficulties UPE implementation has to overcome. The fourth section outlines the methodology adopted in this study. The fifth section summarises the rest of the chapters in the report.

1.2 The Universal Primary Education Policy and its Implementation

In 1977, the Ugandan government launched a 20-year Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP) and Poverty Action Fund (PAF), where primary education is a central component of the strategies to eliminate poverty by 2020 (Ministry of Planning and Economic Development [MPED] 1997). In the same year, the government consequently introduced the UPE project aimed at providing full tuition to four children per household (Ministry of Education and Sports [MoES] 1998). To emphasize the role of primary education in poverty eradication, the government identified UPE as one of the key sectors to benefit from the PAF. Through a capitation grant, PAF enables UPE to improve equitable access to basic education by removing the burden of paying school fees, and enhancing the quality of primary education by providing schools with resources necessary to run them (MoES 2002).
One of the management assumptions that UPE makes is the active participation in administration of the scheme by the community that each primary school serves. For instance, such community is directly charged with the following:

  • Contributing towards construction of schools buildings by providing local materials such as bricks, stones, sand, water and labour;
  • Encouraging members to send children to school and support pupils once in school to ensure that they remain there;
  • Contributing towards the security and safety of school children and the school plant;
  • Contributing ideas, time and energy towards the improvement of the teaching and learning programmes;
  • Providing positive discipline for school children both within and outside the school;
  • Monitoring school personnel regarding the use of positive discipline measures;
  • Ensuring that the resources for education held by the VCIII is used to improve the teaching and learning programmes of the schools;
  • Ensuring that the school makes full use of the expertise and resources of the Core Primary Teachers’ Colleges, especially that of the Co-ordinating Centre Tutor serving the school;
  • Participating in community mobilisation activities that support improved pupil learning at home and at school;
  • Providing safe water sources, stores, office and staffroom signposts, and recreational facilities; and
  • Being actively involved in sanitation promotion programmes of their school.
UPE describes the relevant community as composed of at least three entities (MoES 1998). The first is the School Management Committee (SMC), which is a group of local opinion leaders selected to represent the government in each school. The SMC acts as a form of Board of Directors charged with monitoring the school administration with special reference to government policy. The second one is the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) which is a community based association formed on a voluntary basis to provide a formal and organised voice representing members of the community whose children attend a particular primary school. The third, more loosely defined, is everyone else whose civic and non-civic actions could impact on the children and teachers of the school.

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