On Saturday, morning I received three messages raising red flags on the marking and grading of last year’s, Primary Leaving Examinations. The results were released last Thursday.
The concerns spring from the fact that seasoned schools have for the past three years performed below expectations. Instead, out of Kampala schools have excelled beyond imagination.
On one of the several WhatsApp groups I belong to, a ‘forumist’ wondered how schools like Kampala Parents, Green Hill Academy, City Parents, Kabojja Primary among others have fallen off the ladder.
The discussion has become so prevalent until I heard Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze tell listeners on a Saturday morning political show that there are different marking schemes for candidates in first class schools and those in Universal Primary Schools. Apparently, the children in schools like Kampala Parents need to score more than 90 per cent to score a distinction one, while their colleagues especially in UPE schools, score D1s with just 75 per cent.
As I was grappling with Nambooze’s assertions, a friend sent me a comment from Dr Roy Mayega. I didn’t seek his permission to use his words but I trust he said them in good faith.
“For at least three years (probably even many more), UNEB seems to have conjured an unwritten policy to under-mark the top schools in Kampala. Ok, there is a chance it is a systematic problem with instructional approach of the elite schools, but the patterns with which these once thriving titans are crushing shows clearly that this trend is not occurring by chance alone – at least statistically. Kampala Parents had no 4s this year. Greenhill Academy, City Parents and Kabojja Primary, to mention but a few, were the total shadow of their once glittering performance. Parents and students are described to have been weeping. Some stormed the school admin offices for answers. These are schools where parents pay for the highest quality of instruction. These are schools where students get every important learning object as long as it is targeted to passing the exam – yet they are trailing the likes of Kakooge Primary. As soon as you jump out of Kampala, the grades, even in very urban schools in Wakiso District shoot up – Nalya Hillside and Homingsdalen as good examples – Over forty 4’s in each of these schools. However, even within Kampala District, several tiny wee schools performed much better than the big-names – there is a little school in Kisaasi by the names of St. Angela which had twice the number of 4s that Kabojja for example got. Conspiracy theories have been swirling around about what might be happening: That the policy makers have a ‘sinister plan to kill the schools’; that the policy makers want to demo that UPE schools are better than private schools. Others are fronting an equity argument as the explanation: That the D1 cut-off point top-end private schools is 90 per cent and above while that for other schools is 75 per cent. The latter explanation seems to be more prevalent among the people I have talked to – however, if it were true, what would be the rationale for the cut-off points and was a proper calibration done before the cut-offs were decided? Anyways, I have interacted with several disappointed parents. But this trend seems to have been going on for several years, worsening every year.
On my part however, its a blessing that this trend has been discovered before my own children get to P7 and I have a simple antidote for it. Being observational scientists, some of us have silently resolved that we can beat the system using purely observational methods: Our children will go to the Kampala schools till P6. Then in P7 we shall take them to register in Nakapiripirit P7 school (and other similar schools) only for the purposes of sitting exams there. They will check into a hotel near the school during the week of exams, and check out immediately after their papers. That is the only sensible solution to this bizzare policy. I mean, what message are we sending to these hardworking little children – that hard work does not pay if you are from Kampala?”
We are asking Uneb to come out and clear the air on this matter. Parents spend so much to invest in their children’s education. The National Examinations Body should not punish any children for attending a better school and have pity on those children in poor state. In raising the standards of education, we should be raising the bar higher for everyone. That’s only fair. And of course, the right thing to do.
Do you have a story in your community or an opinion to share with us: Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org