By: Ismael Kasooha
The Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Nabbanja Robinah has re-echoed her stern warning to Secondary School Head teachers against illegal charges in government-aided schools.
Nabbanja said that H.E the President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni had directed that no illegal charges should be entertained in all government-aided schools in the country.
“There are some challenges that threaten to reverse the gains we have made. One of these challenges is the high school dropout rate. We have established that illegal school charges are some of the drivers of school dropouts. To solve this, we have banned all these charges. They are illegal,” warned Nabbanja.
She reminded the Head teachers about the reasons behind the establishment of Universal education at both Primary and Secondary levels which was to help the less privileged to also attain education.
“Fellow teachers, let us not forget that one of the reasons the Government introduced free primary education is that many parents could not raise schools for their children. So, reintroducing school fees defeats the purpose of introducing UPE and drives children out of school,” Nabbanja noted.
Nabbanja said that this retreat was timely because it came at a time when we were refocusing our education on skills development for socio-economic transformation. She hoped that the time the Head teachers had spent at the National Leadership Institute had been worthwhile as far as the aspirations for skills development were concerned.
She added that as Head teachers, they had a very important role to play in spearheading skills development among the learners and that Government was aware that a skilled population would be crucial to the achievement of socio-economic transformation and sustainable development and it was the reason Government was pursuing several strategies to promote skills development like introducing a competence-based curriculum for the Secondary School level.
Nabbanja made the remarks on Tuesday while interacting with over 370 Secondary School Head teachers drawn from Eastern Uganda who wee undergoing a leadership training in mindset and patriotism at the National Leadership Institute Kyankwanzi.
The Premier said that lack of school lunch had also been cited among the reasons for the high dropout rate but urged parents to provide lunch to their children since the Government was paying all the fees.
“The Education Act, 2008, places the responsibility of feeding school children on parents. I urge you to encourage parents to fulfil this responsibility,” Nabbanja said.
She cautioned the head teachers against sending away students or pupils because they had not paid for lunch because this was the responsibility of parents not the children.
“You have an arrangement with parents at school but you have no powers whatsoever to chase away students because of lunch. These schools belong to the government, not you,” roared Nabbanja.
Nabbanja asked the Head teachers to love their country by doing their work but also asked them to value the jobs they had because many people were jobless outside there and in need of such jobs.
The Premier encouraged the Head teachers to also start up income generating projects as a side income especially in agriculture so that they don’t only rely on salary and resorting to charging parents.
Nabbanja said that the Government was aware that many of the girls unfortunately got pregnant during the COVID-19 pandemic and that some of these girls had taken advantage of the conducive environment created by the Government to return to school after having babies. She said that, that was what was meant when it was said that ‘LEAVING NO ONE BEHIND’.
“I thank the schools that have welcomed back these girls and given them a second chance. I encourage all of you to put in place strategies to prevent and manage teenage pregnancies in schools in accordance with the 2020 guidelines for the prevention and management of teenage pregnancy in schools issued by the Ministry of Education and Sports,” noted Nabbanja.
She continued to say that some girls were dropping out of school just because of lack of sanitary pads which was very unfortunate.
“Fellow teachers, it is disheartening to note that some of our girls continue to drop out of school due to poor management of menstruation periods and a lack of sanitary towels. However, I have seen many stories of innovative schools that are engaging learners in making sanitary pads/towels for girls. This has encouraged many girls to remain in school. I commend those schools and encourage others to emulate them,” she said.
On teacher absenteeism Nabbanja said that the recent report by the Ministry of Education and Sports indicated that 2 out of 5 Teachers were absent from school.
“According to the 2023 report by the Ministry of Education and Sports, it shows that, in more than half of all Ugandan schools, at least 3 in 5 teachers are absent. This goes against one of the four core principles of the NRM – Patriotism. However, I believe this will change after this retreat during which you have learnt a lot about Patriotism,” she said.
Nabbanja lauded the Ministry of Education and Sports for coming up with policies to ensure teachers were effective on duty.
“I want to thank the Ministry of Education and Sports for introducing the Teacher Effectiveness and Learner Achievement tracking system to monitor school attendance by teachers and learners. I hope this will help check teacher and learner absenteeism,” she noted.
Hellen Seku, a Private Secretary to the President in charge of youth affairs, said that they were optimistic that by the end of the training the head teachers would be focused on their work.
Seku said that this was the 3rd batch of Head teachers to undergo such a training and they were only left with Western region to complete the cycle.