I watched as two local toddlers played and interacted with each other and their mothers/mothers’ friends looked on. This scene made me very annoyed. And the longer they played and the mothers looked on, commenting, the more annoyed and irate I became!
Why? These toddlers were children of teachers. These teachers were sitting outside their classroom, on a bench, whilst their P3 (year 2) class remained inside without a teacher. I (and my faithful helpers) were visiting this particular school carrying out reading tests on 45 children. I sat outside this classroom for two hours. From 8.30am to 10.30am not one lesson was taught. As I regularly entered the classroom, picking children at random, I found one child ‘controlling’ the class (with a stick), and it seemed they were taking it in turns to tell stories from the front of the class. During these two hours I observed one of the teachers go and set up a solar panel to go and charge her mobile phone; during break time she had the most interaction with one child when she sent her up the road to buy snacks for herself. I observed the teachers casually marking exam papers and filling in report cards, but most of the time they were chatting, taking tea and eating. The children? Well they remained inside with no lessons taking place.
There were remnants of lesson notes on the chalkboard, and that was from the early morning lesson. Children attend school from 7.30am for ‘extra morning lessons’ or ‘extended programme’; school administration state that children need to attend longer school times because children are so far behind that they need to catch up, etc. And parents pay extra money for this. It is common to find a government school where teachers will teach the extra lessons but do no teaching during the main school hours. This school is a ‘control school’; I have been monitoring the children’s reading levels throughout the year but I am not working directly with them yet. I plan to work with them next year but after this experience (and previous experiences) I am worried that I am going to have a big struggle on my hands.
There are many reasons why children have a poor education here in Uganda. And this is an insight into just a few of those reasons…