Uganda introduced the UPE Program in 1997 to address the deteriorating enrolment of pupils in schools following abject poverty in the country side. A couple of years down the road, it is evident that while a considerable number of school going children have enrolled for school-approximately 18 million children, of which 49% are girls, the high turnover rate is a factor to frustrate the effort. According to statistics from Uganda’s Ministry of education, 1,598,636 enrolled in primary one in 2006, the Uganda National Examination Board indicated that after seven years, 463,332 pupils sat for primary seven which constitutes 29%.
This means that 71%, majority of which are girls, dropped out. And this is informed by a number of factors not limited to ignorance of parents, inadequate facilitation materials especially to address girls’ sexuality, early pregnancies, forced marriages, cultural ties, and poor learning materials among others. “Consequences of Child Marriage in Africa,” a 2006 study by Nawal M. Nour says that more than 50% girls in Uganda get married before the age of 18. A study carried out on menstrual management in Uganda in 2012 by SNV and IRC, indicate that over 57% of school girls aged 11-13 absent themselves from school for up to three days monthly due to menstrual hygiene. This high dropout leaves them with a basic skill gap, and ultimately contributing to the rampant unemployment of young people.
It is critical to design combative strategies to address the challenge of pupil turnover. The strategy should be implemented through parents, teachers and the local communities. This is to emphasize ownership of the solutions to a problem. While civil society efforts to address the challenge have been fruitful to some extent, government partnership with communities will track and enroll all Out-of-School Children, sensitize communities, build a business case for parents at school and support them with information and ideas on the value of education.
Stephen Katende: Winner of the 2016 Blog4Dev Contest
As a fellow with Building Tomorrow, I have recruited community ambassadors to recruit Out of School Children and the reasons for their drop out are indicative that there is no clear objective for being in school, yet there is little or no support from the parents.
The program has registered success, with a 90% recruitment and enrollment, and is designing strategies to sensitize communities and build a business case for the parents to ensure their meaningful participation in the learning of their children. It is also evident that while some children have a desire to learn, they have not been given the opportunity to do so, and or they are not adequately supported to do so. A case in point is, in Lukindu Building Tomorrow academy in Lwengo District, where Kizza Vicent a newly enrolled Out Of School Child in primary two, is very happy rejoining school after dropping out for one and half years . He is excited and very determined to work hard and become a police officer in the future. There are many children like Kizza in all the schools we work with across the country. If a campaign is purposively designed to cover the bigger part of the country, the pupil dropout rate will be contained, while giving Uganda’s children a second chance to influence their lives through quality education.
This blog is one of the winning entries of the 2016 #Blog4Dev contest. Other winning entries include: