Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Thematic curriculum: schools still grappling

Pupils of Light Junior Academy, Katwe read an NiE magazine on Uganda’s golden Jubilee recently.John Mutebi, 13, is a primary seven pupil in one of the prominent city primary schools where he has been since baby class. He is among thousands of pupils who joined Primary One at a time the thematic curriculum was rolled out seven years ago.
But even as the curriculum programme promoted the use of local languages in lower primary (P1 to P3), he was never introduced to his mother tongue –Luganda as the government policy suggests.
At his home, his older siblings and parents use English language making it hard for him to learn his mother language.
But why did government review the curriculum and how much has this been achieved?
According to National Curriculum Development Centre, there was an emergency after research findings done by the Ministry of Education, Uganda National Examinations Board and the evaluation department under the NCDC indicated that children were reaching P7 without knowing how to read and write.
“The concern of low literacy and numeracy skills was first raised by parents and education officials. It was also evident in how pupils answered Uneb questions and how they interacted with the community. It doesn’t surprise me if university lecturers complain about their students’ performance,” says Mr Gabriel Obbo Katandi, the coordinator for Upper Primary at Uneb.
Mr Katandi told Education Guide in an earlier interview that the thematic curriculum was introduced to address the literacy and numeracy weaknesses, the overcrowded curriculum and the promotion of life skills among children. However, Mutebi’s experience shows how the thematic concept has failed to take off in many schools especially in urban centres where teachers emphasise English as a medium of communication.
According to Mr Chrysostom Kibeti, Uneb deputy secretary primary exams, he acknowledges that many schools have not followed the concept but is quickly on the defensive saying teaching in local languages can only be possible in rural areas. He added that this year’s national exams will have the concept to see how much of the literacy and numeracy competences have been attained.
For instance, he said that candidates siting PLE will find Mathematics section A has changed from 30 questions to 20 with each taking two marks while English language will emphasise skills. Questions in Social Studies or Religious Education have increased to promote the moral aspect.
“The thematic curriculum was misunderstood. The schools were expected to teach in a language commonly used in the locality. But this is possible in rural areas. In urban centres, the schools can use English as a medium of instruction,” Mr Kibeti explained.
The resistance has come mostly from private schools who claim teaching in local languages wastes their time because it is not examined at the end. The ministry did little to sensitise the public about the curriculum which caused a lot of criticism from both the parents and teachers.
“Many private primary schools forget that their institutions are not a subsection of secondary schools where any teacher can teach. Being a graduate or professor doesn’t mean that you have the competencies to handle a primary two class. They employ less and over qualified people with some lacking pedagogical skills,” says Ms Deborah Magera, NCDC head of the early childhood department.
Ms Geraldine Bukenya, a curriculum specialist on local languages at NCDC blames this on government which allowed schools in urban centres to use English as a medium of instruction right from the beginning.
“There was a loophole right from the start. You cannot say village schools should adopt a local language to use but city schools are free to continue using English. It is like saying pupils should put on uniform but those who cannot afford can dress in any way they feel like,” she noted.
According to Bukenya, teachers in lower primary were also supposed to be posted to schools in localities whose languages they can ably speak and write but this is not followed at all.
“This was a requirement at the start of this programme but unfortunately, along the way district service commissions reverted to the old arrangement of simply posting teachers to areas where they think there is shortage. And some teachers who had been trained in thematic curriculum are transferred without making consultations with school management committees leaving a gap in many schools,” she says.
“We had indeed equipped those teachers with skills to enable them adopt themes related to children’s experiences to increase interest in learning the different subjects they will study in later years but all that seem to have gone to waste ,” she adds.
Government was also supposed to set up a National Language Advisory Board and district language boards but these are yet to be established. “We submitted our proposals several years ago on how we want the advisory board to look like and we hope they (ministry of education) are yet to consider them but on the local language board we are yet to complete the process and we plan to create 27 of them,” she said.

 However, Ms Magera says pupils whose schools followed the thematic curriculum have had their proficiency in reading and writing improved. “We have done three assessments in schools where the curriculum was embraced, results are promising. What is lacking is the element of identifying the gaps and we address them. Teachers need to be retooled and all this requires more funding to the sector,” she said.
In 2008, the commissioner basic education Dr Daniel Nkaada threatened to close schools that don’t follow the curriculum and this simply ended as a mere threat.
“Changes usually take long to be grasped by our people and our work is to continue sensitizing them,” said Dr Nkaada on telephone last week. He admitted that many teachers are still facing huddles in finding learning materials in some languages like Luo which he blamed on limited resources.
“It is true we have not been able to provide all the required materials and the budget has been a big factor in this. As soon as we get the money, all that will be addressed,” he added. According to the 2012 Education Sector Annual Performance report out of the 455 teachers in schools visited ,only half (51 percent) are trained on the thematic curriculum.

accessed on Monday 5, Nov. 2012 from:http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/Education/Thematic+curriculum++schools+still+grappling/-/688336/1611402/-/item/0/-/129k62t/-/index.html

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Community libraries increase access to English teaching/ learning materials

RIC-NET joined the rest of the members of Uganda community Libraries Association in celebrating the Book Week from the 15th to 20th October. The event took place at Busongora Rural community library located in Kasese District. This library serves both the farmers in the community as well as the students and other community members.

The main objectives was to create understanding on the value of reading to the pupils and students in Kasese, to create a linkage between the tradition teaching method with the modern, To derive a picture of the type of library required by the users- community, pupils and students. The participating schools included; Kasese Secondary, Kasese High, Kasese Moslem, Light of Hope Secondary[between S1-S3], Kasese Primary, Base camp Primary, Mother care and Rock primary[pupils between P.3-P6] other were RICNET, RWECO and BRIC staffs, DIO, DEO, Secretary for education and sports Kasese district local government represented by Mr.Tsembere Venesio the area district councilor. 
The activities included; Story telling by the elders to students and pupils. Art and drawing competition, Debate, Book reading and Quiz competitions among the participating schools involving the secondary and the primary learners.
During the silent reading and later sharing of the books, the pupils the participant realized that reading is important because; there is an increase in knowledge and awareness, pupils learn good behaviors, increase their ability to speak and write, has increased their ability to speak in public and their views heard, increase their literacy rate, get meaningful advice from certain books, able to understand program from the government and their rights as children of Uganda.

They also realized community issues that need actions from the community and their leaders are easily shared and understand especially; better farming methods, community literacy programs, family planning methods should be implemented to reduce on population explosion. Laws, ordninaces and by-laws should be put in place to regulate on drug abuse, children rights should be respected. One pupils from Mother Care Preparatory School Degaulle in P.4 amused the house when he mentioned that “the government is to blame for reduce the cost of Alcohol especially those that cost as less 500; Buveera”. He was supported by another Komukebya Sharon from Base camp Primary who said that these drugs are easily accessible everywhere in the villages. These views were later accepted and the District councilor accepted to table them in the council

The event also draw participants to an understand between formal and informal education. In informal education, the teachers were mainly uncles, Anti and grandparents where knowledge was passed in form of proverbs, stories, sayings, songs that were meant to increase behavior change,sence of belonging to the community, hard work and good character among the young ones as well as increasing the sense of belonging to the community. The fire place was the class room.
 In the formal education, teacher and schools have replaced the role of elders to pass knowledge. The story telling that formed part of this event draw the pupils the life back with the grandparents. Mr. Kyaminyawande Augustine an elder from the community helped the pupils to understand that informal education had value and those values should be taken even today.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012


Free at last, was the sigh of every Ugandan 50 years back, and down the road we have come to witness the joy of self rule and being instruments of our own development.
Today individuals, CSOs, Government and private sector are all happy to know that they are part of the development/achievements that were celebrated at the 50th Independence Anniversary. 
In the same vein Rwenzori Information Centers Network (RIC-NET) a Community owned Information Network in the Rwenzori region is glad to mention how it has spear- head the use of ICTs in information sourcing, sharing and dissemination in the Rwenzori region and boosted agriculture during these 50 years of independence, www.ricnet.co.ug.
Having piloted E-society Resource Centers in the region, first in Kasese District in 2010 and later Kabarole in 2011, and now Bundibugyo and Kamwenge Districts in 2012; it is evident that the information gap between the District Local Governments and the community has been bridged, while the computer literacy and the use of different on-line platforms and social media has been enhanced amongst the civil servants and the community at large.
This has been made possible through the development of the different on-line platforms developed for the districts to share information; websites; www.kasese.go.ug www.kabarole.go.ug, www.bundibugyo.go.ug , www.kamwenge.go.ug and  blogs, e-libraries, Skype accounts among others and through the free computer trainings offered at these centers by the RIC-NET staff.
Related to the above is piloting the use of ICT and CINEDUC in the teaching and learning of English in secondary and Primary Teachers Colleges in Kasese and Kabarole Districts.  The purpose of this project is to address the traditional teaching methods of chalk and talk with ICT enhanced methods that that use photo digital stories, power point and video aimed at increasing efficiency in the learning-teaching process.  
Rwenzori region is a food basket in Uganda though challenged by various agricultural problems like crop pests and diseases, poor infrastructure, lack of available market information and markets as well as unpredictable weather patterns. In response to this, RIC-NET developed a “Healthy plants for healthy people” project run by 16 trained plant doctors. These are charged with supporting farmers with plant diagnosis and treatment through “plant Clinics” conducted on market days in the market places. This has reduced crop pests and diseases, enhanced crop productivity and also increased farmers’ household incomes.
Strengthening Citizens’ participation in Social accountability/monitoring District Local Governments’ service delivery has reduced misuse of public funds and discouraged shoddy work on public projects. 
Great thanks go to the Government of Uganda for the cooperation and enabling environment, and to the RIC-NET funders and partners; HIVOs, EU, Connect for Change, Plant Wise Uganda, CABI UK and EIFL for their financial and technical support. 
Congratulations Uganda, Happy 50th Independence. For God and My Country!

Friday, 11 May 2012


Computers for schools (cfsu) and RWECO through RIC-NET have successfully completed a four days training of English teachers in improving effective teaching-learning processes through ICT enabled innovative methods. The training that started on 7th - 10th May 2012 attracted secondary school teachers from Kabarole and Kasese Districts involving schools of St.Leo’s college, Kyebambe Girls Rutete S.S and St.Charles Voc SS, St.Thereza Girls’ and Kilembe SS respectively. Bwera teachers’ college from Kasese also was presented for the work of preparing teachers who provide a foundation for learners in secondary schools. The training was facilitated by Stella Nekesa, staff computers for schools [CFSU]. Lydia Kamba,staff computers for schools EPP project, John Silco ED RIC-NET ,in charge of general administration and implementation of the project and project spokesperson. Yosia Baluku,ICT officer RIC-NET and Charles Kaliba Outreach officer in charge of research and documentation.
The training was focusing on how to integrate the traditional methods of teaching English Language [chalk and talk] with use of ICT. [Focus on developing the skills of Teachers with ICT innovative methods of teaching that is expected to yield more results, at least 2 teachers of English from each selected School attended. The projects are being piloted in 6 schools and 2 teacher training colleges in Kasese and kabarole Districts. ICT based tools allows to create, store, display information in its form. Group discussions on the situation in schools as far as teaching English is concerned were conducted in the course of the training. Issues discussed were; problems faced in the teaching learning of English, methods of teaching English and how to handle the different abilities in class. A discussion on the 4 skills and how they’re applied in the teaching process [reading, speaking, listening and writing] were discussed whether they’re achieved at the end of the lesson? To be good teachers, it was discussed that one should possess the following; Exploratory, Assessment, competence, interactive and passion
The alternative approaches of teaching English language. Learning station method, Lexical approach, English circle method. Think-Pair share method. Grammar translations, Practice presentation and product, Phonic, Direct approach, Notional-functional approach. Task based learning, [from the traditional methods that have been used] ICT integration by using ICT tools which included [digital storytelling, teaching using pictures and cinema education]. Mr. John Silco took the participants through Cineduc [using movie and videos in education]. This is video education of about 15-30 min. the video can be stopped in between to allow discussion [stop video discussion]. The teacher may assign students certain characters in the video and allow each participant follow the video. The video can be used to test the 4 skills [listening, speaking, writing and reading].

Challenges that were raised as likely to affect the innovation were; Teachers may ignore the innovation after the training since it will be involving double preparation of the lesson. Teachers may fear challenges of students who may have a lot of skills in ICT than them. Ability to continue practicing may be hampered by scarcity of tools in schools. Attitude of teachers towards change.

CFSU Uganda also promised to offer Generators, Laptops, projectors, projector screens, speakers and also technical back up in case it is needed and also a continuous follow up and trainings at schools.
The training ended on 10th May 2012 and teachers appreciated this initiative. They designed work plans for individual schools on what is going to be done as soon as the schools open and promised to be cooperative whenever called upon.

Friday, 23 March 2012


Header teachers and District leaders agree that there are gaps in the education system in the Rwenzori region. This was realized during the leaders meeting on the opening of computer for schools projects in Kabarole District. This project is sponsored by Computer for Schools Uganda [CFSU] in Partnership with Rwenzori Consortium for Civic Competency [RWECO].
The meeting took place at the municipal Yard Kabarole district on 23rd march 2012. CSFU PROJECTS; “Improving effective teaching- learning processes through ICT enabled innovative methods”.“Improving literacy and proficiency levels in English language by enhancing communication skills in 30 primary schools in the Rwenzori region”. The project is narrowed down to English language. It’s being piloted in 6 schools in Kabarole and Kasese districts. This is based on the survey conducted which showed that most of the students fail because of poor quality
The projects are based on the Problem that; Teaching-learning process is still based on method of Talk and Chalk. Which method is more tradition and thus this project will supplement the method to increase efficiency in the learning-teaching process. It’s based on the Objectives: Building the capacity of 30 English teachers and 10 English Tutors in the teacher training colleges. These shall be trained on how to use the innovative method of teaching and learning, encourage the participation of parents and other stakeholders in the teaching-learning process [district leaders, community, SMC, parents].
According to Mrs. Grace Baguma of National curriculum development center, pupils fail to achieve literacy and numeracy skills in schools. She attributed the problem to unclear policy on the language of instruction, inadequate teacher knowledge of the basic techniques of teaching literacy and numeracy, the time allocated to teaching reading, writing and developing numeracy skills and the shortage of teachers to teach in local language.
The question from the above is how we can solve the literacy level in the region. The government has put in more efforts to provide materials [books, paying teachers and providing other scholastic materials] but above all the level of education is still low. There are many drop-outs from primary and secondary schools.
In support of the notion the CAO Kabarole mentioned that, Much as education is decentralized, there still exist some tendencies of centralization in the entire system. Government should allow competition which is the basis of decentralization in the school and districts. Curriculum should be reviewed at the district level. Some languages are static as compared to languages like Kiswahili and French. Thematic curriculum is good but not transitional. The curriculum needs to be enforced even in the private schools. We should consider the level of schools and the environment where we’re operating. Some schools have got light, other children do a lot of domestic chores while other are just there to read. The issue of staff sealing affects some schools. In this case district should be allowed to recruit according to the need.
The header teachers mentioned that, the curriculum in place has been examination driven hence does not give teachers the opportunity to develop numeracy and literacy skills, the government develop a curriculum and fail to orient the teachers and above all does not provide the materials to support the curriculum e.g. the kajubi report was not implemented by the government with all such rich content in it. Some many reviews have affected performance at both secondary and Primary.
It was suggested that, certain programs should pass through the curriculum center to avoid such programs that are not productive and increase the work load for the school and the students. Teaching should not only be to pass exams but to increase knowledge among the students. The ministry should establish courses that encourage the teachers to be more innovative in the teaching learning process. Professionalism should be encouraged among the teacher to determine whether learning has taken place or not. With the ongoing review of the Secondary school curriculum, the NCDC has plans to orient teachers, education officials and all the stakeholders across the country. The MOES should monitor the implementation of the entire education e.g. the language policy No 3/05 of 10/1/2005, deploy your best teacher circular No 2/2005 and other circulars.