As schools prepare to reopen for second term, pupils in at least 54 public primary schools will study from better infrastructure, writes YUDAYA NANGONZI.
On May 2, Education minister Janet Museveni commissioned new permanent structures at Birere Mixed primary school in Isingiro to officially launch a one-month handover of new structures for 54 schools across the country.
With this new setting, Bright Rwamirama, the state minister for Veteran Affairs, concluded: “In Isingiro, we are relieved. We have been badly off with these old buildings.”
Also an old pupil of the school, Rwamirama said most of the primary schools have been turned into secondary schools, thus pushing youngsters into dilapidated structures. Ms Museveni agreed with Rwamirama.
“When I went to Ruhaama, I found the school I was studying in [Kyamate primary school] had been turned into a secondary school and they took pupils to a school with very bad shelter and called it primary,” Ms Museveni said.
She added that effective second term 2018, schools will witness a new dawn with better infrastructure – thanks to a $100m grant from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) to improve the education system under the Uganda Teacher and School Effectiveness Project (UTSEP) supervised by the World Bank.
The grant agreement was signed in 2014 but became effective in 2016. The ministry has used part of the grant to construct 138 schools in 31 districts. Of the 138, some 54 schools in six districts of Arua, Kapchorwa, Bukwo, Isingiro, Ibanda and Alebtong are being handed over until May 30. She said completion of 84 other schools is underway and expected to be finalized by December 2018.
According to Philly Mpaata from Pancon Engineers Ltd which refurbished Birere and five other schools in Isingiro, all schools were selected through a combined needs-and-effort-based assessment.
“When we first visited Birere, it had about 200 learners. The school lacked permanent structures, some children were studying under a tree while one of the buildings was almost collapsing,” Mpaata told The Observer.
Today, Birere boasts seven spacious classrooms, one administration block, five and two-stance toilets and a 5,000-litre water tank.
Each classroom has been furnished with a permanent metallic cupboard for storing children’s books and textbooks, entrance and exit doors, large blackboards and a four-partitioned rack where learners keep their bags and containers with packed lunch.
For all the completed 54 schools, the ministry has constructed 356 classrooms, 53 administration blocks, 108 five-stance toilets, 63 two-stance toilets, nine teacher’s houses and 63 water tanks.
Dr Daniel Nkaada, the ministry’s commissioner for basic education, said the ongoing mass construction means that government is not only focusing on infrastructure but also the learning environment for children.
“In most of the schools under the UPE programme, some structures are old and dilapidated; you only wish to break them down. Ordinarily, we have been constructing under government funding through School Facilities Grant but it is very minimal,” Nkaada said attributing the high school dropouts to poor learning environs.
While the accommodation for teachers remains a challenge countrywide, only nine schools in Bukwo district have received teachers’ houses. Currently, Isingiro has 189 primary and 22 government secondary schools with about 400 private secondary schools.
MORE GRANTS EXPECTED
Once education ministry effectively utilizes funds for the first phase, GPE has earmarked another $100m for the second phase, according to Nkaada.
“And if we perform well on round two, the possibility of getting a third grant is high,” he said. “We are still debating on how to spend the second grant but construction and refurbishing more schools remains at the forefront.”
He added that phase one has covered only 138 schools but there are over 12,000 government primary schools across the country and many are in dire need of reconstruction.
Already, about 300 parishes have no government primary school while over 100 sub-counties have neither a government nor a private secondary school.
According to the ministry of Education and Sports policy, government is supposed to construct a primary school in every parish, a secondary school per sub-county to reduce on the average walking distances to school.