Author: UNISON MG CONSULTING SERVICES (UMG)
The cumulative improvements in the educational performance indicators in nearly the rest of Uganda excepting Karamoja sub-region that followed the launch of the Universal Primary Education (UPE) program in 1997 has renewed interest in the search for a more Karamoja-specific education delivery model. There is heightened awareness that, the peculiarities of Karamoja call for equally unique educational strategies.
This follow-up study was executed on the request of the MoES in partnership with UNICEF, to gauge the performance of both the traditional and relatively newer alternative approaches to the delivery of primary education and teacher development within the context of the social, economic, cultural, ecological, demographic and political limitations of the Karamoja environment. It therefore involved profiling the challenges encountered thus far and using a trans-disciplinary approach to explore opportunities for developing modified, more cost-effective delivery modalities.
The investigation relied on a multi-track data collection strategy involving interviews and discussions with the communities in Karamoja, first-hand multi-stakeholder assessments; critical perusal of related literature, official records, research reports as well as education statistical abstracts to generate trend information which was used as a basis for charting out the way forward for Karamoja‟s education sector. The sequence of analysis started with critical perusal of the mass of descriptive statistics/information obtained. This was subsequently followed by use of axial coding techniques to establish relationships, categories and to draw generalizations.
Notwithstanding the modest improvements in ABEK, primary schooling and primary teacher training, the “Karamoja Syndrome” (an euphemism for the ecological, political, social, cultural, economic and demographic barriers to sustainable educational development) is undermining the educational worthiness of these sub-systems. The interface between each of the sub-systems and these barriers is posing diverse challenges.
ABEK approach experiences challenges like poor attendance by the children, lack of infrastructure and sanitation facilities, poor quality of facilitators and lack of formal assessment and certification of ABEK completers.
Challenges in formal primary education include; acute shortage of teachers‟ housing, inadequate availability of qualified and well motivated teachers associated with restrictive policy for admission to a primary teacher training program, restrictive staff ceilings arrived at after collapsing teacher requirements for both ABEK and primary education, dire shortage of teaching-learning accessories especially for the thematic curriculum, disconnect between the core primary school curriculum content and issues of immediate and long term concern to the Karamojong people, debilitating impact of the “Karamoja Syndrome” self-perpetuating forces of drought, famine, insecurity, environmental degradation and floods on school-based education delivery mode, high school dropout rates, low completion and retention rates, poor learning achievement as reflected in unsatisfactory PLE results, gross abuse of the rights of children, especially the girl-child and compromised child-friendliness of the school environment.
Key challenges for teacher development include failure by the PTCs to attract Karimojong teacher trainees who are expected to be the subsequent deliverers of the thematic curriculum, prioritization by donors of the in-service rather than pre-service teacher training programs, and problematic and inequitable recruitment and deployment of the teaching workforce across the region and between the rural and urban schools.
The emerging lessons point to the fact that the Karimojong have understood and embraced education in general, and realized that offering education to their children is beneficial. However, the hostile environment that prevails makes it difficult for them to make any substantial contributions towards their children‟s needs. Massive external support is the only option to ensure continuity and sustainability in children‟s participation in basic education.
A mix of community-initiated policy suggestions which could help to streamline the dialogue between ABEK, primary and teacher training within the context of Karamoja include construction of infrastructures in ABEK centers and boarding primary schools, develop “outreach” programs using school facilities designed to meet learning needs of those who are out of school and in the informal sector, increased support in kind and from the key development partners such as UNICEF, SCIU, WFP, IRC, ADRA, and others could be solicited to leverage the local and central government funds earmarked for school construction and rehabilitation work, and prioritize a phased building program for boarding primary schools which should gradually roll out from the most severely underserved areas/populations as in Kotido and Kaabong districts to the more moderately less privileged places.
There is need for government to develop location-specific and needs-based resource allocation formula to bring about greater equity in Karamoja along regional, gender and socio-economic divides. The following “ground-leveling” public funding proposals could be considered. First, create low cost boarding primary schools by introducing a pro-poor public financing modality that would enable all the newly constructed boarding primary schools in Karamoja to become fee-free or fee limited establishments, Second, operate a preferential capitation grant system for existing schools serving disadvantaged communities such as those in the remote Lopelipeli area and which charge a fee below a certain stipulated threshold. Third, increase the number of bursaries tenable only at boarding primary schools in Karamoja. Fourth, introduce financial incentives to promote gender parity in education; for example an enhanced capitation grant could be offered for girls once a school attains or exceeds a recommended minimum level of enrolment, and fifthly, introduce an admissions policy to favor pupils and students from Karamoja; and finally, provide sufficient learning materials and equipment to allow effective learning and attract more learners.
Regarding teacher supply and utilization there is need to address the problem of shortage and develop a comprehensive career advancement opportunities that go beyond INSET for both ABEK facilitators and primary school teachers. Consider adoption of more decentralized mechanisms for hiring of teachers, by granting individual primary schools the authority to independently recruit and deploy teachers. Review modalities for determining teachers‟ salaries with a view to developing criteria that link pay to actual productivity rather than qualification of the teacher. Address the bottlenecks arising from low teacher salaries, high rates of teacher attrition and a flat school organizational structure that offers few alternative channels for within school promotion. Constantly provide training for primary school managers (head teachers, PTA and SMCs executives) to keep them updated about the new effective leadership styles which focus on management for results or goal oriented strategic institutional planning, cost-sensitive decision making; and introduce performance related contractual employment norms for institutional managers (head teachers) to target desired outcomes such as improved examination results, more equitable enrolment and more efficient deployment of teaching staff
Concerning curriculum improvement, multiple interventions could be undertaken to revamp the quality of ABEK, primary and teacher training and they should comprise of the following: Emphasis should be on shifting away from academically to a more outcomes based, competency orientated curriculum. Permit and encourage the introduction of some practical subjects and prevocational studies in the ABEK and primary school curriculum where there is local demand as well as school and community level support. Consider defining attainment targets for each subject at different levels and using them as benchmarks to reshape examinations, curricula and teaching methods. Undertake curriculum review that goes beyond mere reorganization of the old subject content to include a rigorous realignment of the curriculum to match new learners‟ aspirations and capabilities, and the challenges of changing climate, with increasing needs for generic, transferable/portable knowledge, skills and abstract thinking capabilities.
Above all, there is need for a coherent policy approach to address the threats posed by easy access to small arms and light weapons; joint disarmament efforts; cross-border natural resources management and conservation; land use policies; development funding and regional cooperation. A concerted effort is also needed to address the impact of climate change in pastoralist areas which has worsened resource-based conflicts and droughts that have decimated livestock and increased “environmental refugees”.
The primary thrust of the study was to carry out a problem structuring of the current mode of primary schooling and primary teacher training in the Karamoja region in order to recommend appropriate approaches to fulfilling the right to quality education.
The specific objectives of thje work assignment were as follows:
a) To establish the extent of contribution to realizing the right to quality education by the current traditional and alternative delivery modes of education applied in Karamoja;
b) To examine social, economic and cultural barriers to education in the region;
c) To examine teacher availability in each of the Karamoja districts and provide insights on how to increase the number and quality of teachers in these districts considering factors relating to training, recruitment, retention and structural issues. . It will also be necessary to ascertain the percentage number of teachers who are Karimojong since this has a direct bearing on teacher-pupil communication/rapport and lesson uptake.
d) Identify strategies for teacher training, recruitment and retention with a gender balance in all schools including those operating in rural and remote areas.
e) Make recommendations for appropriate education delivery models including, where necessary mobile schools, “catch up” or remedial informal education and boarding school delivery.
The study was amenable to the application of a survey research design employing a dual data collection approach involving:
a) A focused intensive literature search in the relevant documents especially MoE studies, and resourceful educational internet sites were used to provide secondary data for the study review process; and
b) Direct field-based sourcing of primary data using semi-structured interview schedules for the relevant MoES officials (particularly in EPD, PED and SNE Departments), representatives of EDP, as well as the staff in the planning, works, production, water, community development and education departments of the study districts (Kotido, Kaabong, Abim, Moroto and Nakapiripirit). Semi-structured questionnaires were also administered to some frontline officials including head teachers/principals, teachers, ABEK facilitators and coordinators and members of the School Management Committees (SMCs). Additional information was tapped through focused group discussions in the ABEK/ECD centers, community leaders and elders, parents, women and youth. The list of respondents is in annex ….. Lesson observation was applied to gauge the effectiveness of teaching-learning process in a classroom setting. Non-participant observation was employed for cross-referencing purposes.
The Karamoja region still lags behind in achieving the EFA targets. Children‟s participation in primary schooling remains wanting. The root causes of this unfortunate trend are clear and diverse, but surmountable. There is growing optimism that things are changing for the better. The change in the community and other stakeholders‟ mindset, the gradual collapse of the monoculture “cattle economy” and the improvement in the overall security situation are heralding new opportunities for genuinely effective reform of education service delivery in Karamoja.
Lessons Learned: (optional)
The preceding exploration of the contribution of the ABEK, primary and primary teacher training to quality and equitable education service delivery in Karamoja (against the background of the social, economic, political, geographical, cultural and demographic realities of the sub-region) highlights some strategic achievements and limitations of each of the current delivery modalities. It is on the basis of that analysis that some lessons are drawn, conclusions emerge and some policy suggestions for corrective action are made as follows on page 50.
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