Assessing strategies for coping with large enrolment in urban UPE schools of Uganda.
This study assessed the mechanisms for coping with large enrolments in urban UPE schools of Uganda with specific focus on UPE schools in Nakawa Division of Kampala District, between 1997 and 2003. Internationally, Universal Primary Education is the provision of free and compulsory basic education to all children of school-going age sponsored by the government; yet in the Ugandan context, UPE was at the initial stage intended to provide basic education to four children per household. Now, however, it has been re-defined as education for all. The assessment applied in attempting to establish whether urban schools were coping with UPE policy and how was insufficient. Therefore, during the research study eleven schools were used to study the experience of the schools in Nakawa Division, Kampala District in Uganda. Within the school setting and outside it, different categories of people were focused on: head-teachers, senior women teachers, classroom teachers, pupils, school management committees, .education officers and politicians. In the process of examination the researcher established functional district service commissions as strategic instruments which were conducting professional verification of the credentials of teachers, conducting interviews for declared vacant positions, formalizing appointments, promotions, retirements and disciplining teachers as well as other workers. It had been argued that in order for education departments to maintain quality in the management of education services, it should have in place a centralized board (DSC). It was noted in the findings that the MoES mechanisms built into the reform to deal with strategic issues such as the public service staff-ceiling policy that aimed at the management of teacher:pupil ratios, could be targeted at providing basic education to 4 pupils per family, but during the research period all children from varying backgrounds were accessing UPE facilities in the integrated system. Owing to the accessibility strategy every child, without due consideration of his/her competence, qualified for automatic promotion to the next class, and the steadily declining standards in numeracy and literacy were attributed to this phenomenon. This was considered to be severely threatening to relevancy, quality, effectiveness, efficiency and, above all, to the sustainability of a quality elite society of tomorrow. On ethical grounds, it would have been expected of the UPE political policy-makers to have considered the application of a normative or evaluative method in designing the reform to suit the different educational backgrounds of the learners in the implementation stages of UPE. This was because moral norms do not have to do only with human beings as such but involve the networking of institutions, or organizations and structures created by people, which would assist UPE reforms in stabilizing, and would guarantee orderly conduct of the general curriculum. In view of the stretched UPE facilities, proper sanitation as an aspect of an environment that is conducive to learning was established to be lacking or short as a result of the rate of enrolment soared, and the sanitary facilities wetre overwhelmed by sheer numbers. In spite of the ongoing expansion/improvement of infrastructure, sanitary facilities were still being ever-utilized in both rural and urban schools and little consideration was being given to the provision of separate facilities for boys and girls and for young and older children. The investigation established, too, that donor mechanisms for resource mobilization and funding were geared towards handling unanticipated UPE challenges nationally through the Education Sector Adjustment Credit (ESAC) grants. It was a mistake for Parent-Teacher Associations to be abolished under the UPE programme, yet the associations were a key instrument for resource mobilization and bridging the gap between schools and parents. A certain proportion of these resources was allocated for the motivation of teachers. Unfortunately PTAs were assumed to be generally detrimental to the well-being of the school system, hence the justification for their dismantlement. The investigation established the existence of other mechanisms too, including: the donor mechanism for resource mobilization and funding, inclusive education, group work, the linear mechanism, the Home Take Away mechanism, investment, foreign support, improved resource allocation and efficiency in resource use, improved sector management, protection of quality, classroom management and control, empowerment, monitoring of child performance, the midday meal, monitoring of finances, and teachers’ unique strategies. In totality, all focused on the analytical capability to cope with educational reform that UPE represents – hence education for all. The findings of the researcher included the ethical implications of UPE, conclusions and recommendations. It was on ethical grounds that the rapid expansion in UPE enrolment as well as increased strategic funding were justified. As a reform, UPE was overloaded with a number of initiatives such as increased influx of children to schools, curriculum reform, recruitment and training of teachers, infrastructural development, improvement in teachers’ welfare, capacity-building of institutions, which were all based on an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses recognized at the local school level. Frequent absenteeism of head-teachers from school, as well as late-coming by both teachers and learners, were practices undermining good performance. On the basis of the researcher’s findings, the recommendations were focused upon a number of strategies. Some of these were upward adjustment of funding to ensure that it matched the rate of inflation and the open market costs of UPE facilities; realistic improvement in teachers’ welfare; and lowering of the teacher:pupil ratios in the light of the integration of children with impairments of various kinds in normal classes. Others included reduction in the costs of gazetted utilities in urban centres as well as introducing such utilities in UPE schools in rural areas; improvement of facilities with a view to eventually eliminating gender disparities; re-designing the curriculum in order to accommodate the needs of vulnerable children in an inclusive education system, implementing reforms to accommodate the moral sentiments of the stakeholders and beneficiaries of UPE; and safeguarding learners against exploitation through hard labour. Above all, the strategies stipulated that the MoES be more focused on effective and efficient teacher training; and that there should be better management of instructional facilities suited to the level and nature of learners, which should be able to stimulate and arouse interest in the learners. Ultimately, the UPE programme was informed by a commitment on the part of the government to sustain socially acceptable moral norms and values, that is to say a moral and ethical culture, which is the basis of every society.