Newspapers and other media houses are quick to show us the ‘shining stars’ each time examination results are released by Uganda National Examination Board (Uneb). This comes with excitement to those perceived to have excelled and agony to those labeled to have failed.
As a country, we never take time to plan for those labeled to have failed or dropped out of school. Recent media reports show that only less than ten per cent of students who enter primary one complete A-level.
What happens or happened to the rest seems not to bother the policymakers or the citizenry. I know one school in Lukaya town council, Kalungu district that had half of its O-level students sit their examinations from another school in Kijjabwemi, Masaka Municipality, so that the few who sat from this said school all got first grades.
This is a common practice, especially in private schools. Surprisingly, parents have allowed this vice to grow and don’t feel insulted at all. Such schools emerge the best in their districts and sometimes at the national level. The schools will be sought after and fees will be raised in the process.
Other schools, especially primary schools, rank their pupils in term one and extra efforts and drills are put onto those from which aggregate four or five are expected.
It is, therefore, not about learning to understand and succeed in life after school but to pass the examinations and appear in papers in order to get more students and raise tuition.
Some schools call up media houses such as local radio stations and give them wrong statistics in order to deceive the parents. It’s common to find that the results announced on radio and those at school are totally different. All this is done in the name of competition and cheating the parents.
Some media houses have abused this process; I have heard some calling upon parents and the students to report to their offices to have their photos taken in order to appear in papers. Therefore, it’s not surprising to see many people appearing in papers yet in my view they shouldn’t have.
As a country, we need to demystify examination results as a measure of schooling success. Children are not machines that must perform in the exact and same manner.
This kind of thinking only promotes cram work and knowledge accumulation, but not knowledge application. Knowledge that cannot be applied is as useless and having no knowledge at all.
Why can’t media houses search for the whereabouts of those star performers who are supposed to have graduated and employed and see if they are any different from those whose results were not publicized.
Is our workforce any better now that students who are going to universities seem to perform better than those in the past?
If yes, why is there rampant recycling of employees and stagnation in most sectors. For example, the current crop of radio and television personalities is nowhere better than that in the past! Who can compare with people such as Allan Kasujja, Alex Ndaula, Juliana Kanyomozi or Karitas Karisimbi? I personally see none.
I have worked with university students for 10 years now and it’s always a norm to ask each of my new learners in the first year which schools they attended and their grades.
It is common that majority come from private schools and have ‘better grades’ but these grades are often not reflected with equally the same grades during the final year. Students from rural government schools that came with fair grades, given the same conditions, are easier to work with and often get better grades.
How can we assist the majority of our children that join primary one but cannot complete the school cycle as the statistics have consistently showed?
Can we introduce basic technical education in our primary curriculum so that whoever leaves or drops out of primary school can easily find some work from which to earn a living?
Can the primary curriculum handle issues such as environmental degradation, domestic violence, health and sanitation, animal and crop husbandry and other vital issues that are affecting us as nation? After all, majority of the learners at this level may not have chance of learning thereafter?
Examination results, however good, are not worthy if they cannot be reflected in better work ethnics and abilities.
The author is a lecturer at the International University of East Africa Kampala.