With the release of Primary Leaving Examination-PLE results, educationists are predicting gloomy times for the secondary school system which is getting clogged as an effect of the COVID-19 induced school closures.
The 2020 primary leavers are supposed to join Senior One but at the moment the class is still occupied by their seniors who left primary in 2019.
Hajj Abudnoor Ssentamu, a senior educationist and headteacher at Mbogo College, notes that to make matter worse, the current occupant of the class cannot leave yet or be promoted as they still have a lot to cover.
From his view as the headteacher, Ssentamu says the current S.1 students have not yet spent more than two months in the secondary school system and therefore not ready to move to the next class by all measures.
He adds that if they are rushed to be promoted then the challenge might result into producing half-baked students at the end of the education cycle.
The said group of learners joined the new level of education in the last week of February and by March 18, 2020 school had been closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 disease. The said group of learners never returned to school until April 12, 2021, briefly.
Two months after the resumption of teaching/learning activities for the S.1 class, the president declared a second school closure on March 18, 2021.
In the event government shortens the learning period for the 2020 S.1 class and they get promoted to senior two, they will create more traffic jam in the system as the current occupants of the class are the worst affected in the secondary school system.
Ssentamu says that unlike other classes, S.2 learners have spent a maximum of two weeks in class ever since the lockdown was first declared in March 2020.
The class of learners in question reported for classes on May 31, 2021 and a few days later, schools were closed again.
Geoffrey Nyende, the Deputy Headteacher in charge of academics at Kololo secondary school, observes that the S.1 class also faced other challenges of the new curriculum which furthers lowered the expected learning outcomes and slowing syllabus coverage.
“And remember we had some effects of the new curriculum which many teachers were still figuring out and automatically promoting senior one students before completion of the syllabus will become problematic since these learners are set to have their vocational examinations in Senior Three,” says Nyende.
Nyende notes that a similar scenario will be created at a level as learners in S.5 cannot just be promoted to the final year of the level of education before covering the required content.
To him, if the ministry wishes to clear the traffic jam, they should think of reopening for the 2020 continuing students for at least months and then a fresh academic year starts in January 2022.
Filbert Baguma, the Secretary-General Uganda Nation Teachers Union-UNATU notes that the current predicament might result into having two classes at the entry point of the ordinary level (senior one).
To Baguma, if the ministry fails to plan for the expected scenarios, they are bound to stay in a fire fighting mode thus derailing the Covid-19 recovery process and harmonization of academic years for a longer period.
Dr Tony Mukasa Lusambu, an education consultant, argues that ministry should try to develop a new academic year which will not give rise to duo classes in a classrooms.
Although officials from the ministry of education are alive to the critical challenges at hand in the sector, they have remained tight-lipped on what they are planning to overcome the looming crisis.
Last week, the minister of education and sports Janet Kataha Museveni noted that it was premature for the ministry to tell how the reopening of educational institutions will be handled.