Schools close in Uganda

Amorikot Primary School in Masaka. Photo by Richard M Kavuma

The Ugandan government shut 398 schools across the country, just before the start of the third school term.

It cited a variety of problems, saying many don’t have licenses to teach and that their head-teachers are unqualified.

The government also points to the poor standards of education as well as the structure of the buildings themselves.

Schools were inspected after a series of fires across the country – over 20 in the last three months.

The most shocking claimed the lives of 20 students in their dormitories at the Budo Junior school in April.

Aggrey Kibenge, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Education, says these schools do not meet the standards of operation or safety and security.

“Our inspectors are to re-visit all the closed schools to ascertain whether they have followed the directive”, he told the press.

However, many have decided to open regardless, saying they were not given enough warning or notice and that it is too close to the end of the school year for them to shut down.

In the Wampewo Primary School in the Wakiso district, 40 out of 100 boarders will be affected by this shut-down. Its headmistress, Ms. Marjorie Kalemeera, said that she had no formal notice of this closure and will be opening anyway.

Another school in Wakiso, the Kasozi Standard Academy, says that while it was inspected last term, no further visits were made to observe whether government recommendations and comments were taken on board.

The Budo Junior school where 20 students burned to death in their dormitories

Minister for Education and Sports Geraldine Namirembe Bitamazire discussed the education system in Uganda and the reasons for shutting down schools in a recent interview with The Guardian.

She says that there’s been a sharp drop in standards as children crowd into schools.

These shutdowns are part of the government’s plans to increase the safety of children in school as well as raise the standard of teaching.

Ms. Bitamazire adds that the government wants “mass literacy rather than an educated elite.”

These plans also hope to involve communities and families more in the education of children in Uganda, particularly in rural areas. Of concern to the government is the dropout rate, since many leave schools to take care of their families or to take up jobs and earn extra income.

She also notes the importance of education as a poverty-alleviating measure.

“In ten years’ time when all these kids have had a free education we will see the impact – many more people will be able to read. I know education leads to a better level of health – washing hands, immunisation. So in the future we won’t be spending so much money on health. We also know there is a direct link between education and poverty. People with skills and education can earn a better living.”

St. Theresa's School for Girls

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