For eight years, Mayuge-based Malongo Ark Peas High School has been operating without Advanced level (S5 and S6). In 2012, the school started with 92 learners from senior one to three before including senior four a year later.
To date, some of the school’s senior four dropouts opt for vocational and technical institutions while many end their secondary school cycle at this stage. As A-level starts next year, there’s hope that more learners who fail to join tertiary institutions will keep in school, writes YUDAYA NANGONZI.
When Samuel Mukisa joined Malongo Ark Peas High School four years ago, he had no plan to study beyond senior four. During registration for Uneb examinations this year, some of his classmates made choices for A-level in other schools but he was indifferent.
With guidance from his teachers, he managed to select only technical institutions just-for-the-sake of filling forms. “I want to join A-level but my school has none. Schools within Mayuge have A-level but my mother cannot afford their fees in addition to transport. She’s a peasant farmer with two candidates in S4 this year,” Mukisa says.
Together with his brother, they stay in a rented house at Shs 5,000 per month in Malongo trading centre where they walk less than a kilometre to school. This means the two brothers are relived of walking about 5km from their mother’s home in Bukatabira village in Mayuge. As MTN Uganda Foundation and PEAS (Promoting Equality in African Schools), a UK-based NGO, visited his school last week, there was a sudden change of mind.
Mukisa, also in charge of patriotism, was one of the many students that applauded MTN in partnership with PEAS for commissioning a three-unit classroom block furnished with desks and sanitary facilities for the school.
Mukisa thought the new structure would accommodate the soaring student population now at 472 until the school director, Samuel Bawuba Ngobi, communicated otherwise.
“We wanted to start A-level next year  but we didn’t have enough buildings, a reason we lobbied from MTN for more classrooms. We have been gifted with a whole new A-level block expected to accommodate up to 60 students per class,” Bawuba said amid ululation from students and parents.
He added that the absence of A-level at his school and few secondary schools in the district has seen more senior four dropouts in this rural community of Malongo join subsistence fishing and farming and offer cheap labour in sugarcane plantations.
Mayuge district comprises six government secondary schools, 40 private and only one tertiary institution. In Malongo sub-county alone, there are four secondary schools. Of the four schools, one is government-aided. Malongo Ark Peas is located about 40km from Mayuge town while one walks about 4km to access the other two private schools in the sub-county.
SUPPORT TO MORE SCHOOLS
The head of the Enterprise Business department at MTN, Henry Muwagga, says Malongo was selected for featuring among the hard-to-reach areas in a bid to bring education close to people.
“We understand the importance of education in changing the world into a better place. When PEAS approached us with this proposal to create space for more students, it was only natural for us to take it up,” Muwagga said, urging the proprietors to put the new structures to good use and boost education in the district.
He adds that the support to Malongo is part of a Shs 1.3bn partnership between MTN and PEAS in which five more schools will receive new furnished classroom blocks. These are; Samling PEAS Nama HS in Mpigi, Onwards & Upwards SS in Wakiso, Apeulai HS Amuria, Aspire PEAS HS and Nobles Peas HS, both in Ibanda.
The chief guest and deputy minister of Education in Busoga kingdom, Nasabu Nantale, challenged the school to utilise the new structures and transform them into better results in national examinations.
“In every Uneb result, Busoga features among the worst-performing regions. If we have a better learning environment, there should be no excuse for schools like Malongo not to stand out,” Nantale says.
“It pains that dropout rates are high because many candidates register but almost a quarter do not sit for final examinations.”
She urged parents to take their mantle of supporting learners seriously lest the problem of absenteeism persists in schools. Out of the 80 candidates who sat O-levels at Malongo Ark Peas HS last year, only one candidate passed in division one. Sixteen candidates passed in division two, 18 in division three and 36 in division four.
At least six failed and three did not sit the examination. Mukisa’s prayer is to excel this year and join A-level as a pioneer student at this school to pursue his dream of becoming an electrical engineer.