Concern for poor performance in Uganda’s primary schools has been written about and discussed in different forums including at the United Nations. The problem has been recognized but little, if at all, corrective action has been taken. Three principal constraints have been identified – school lunches, teachers’ incentives and rigorous inspections.
There is sufficient and indisputable evidence from developed and developing countries that school lunches improve student attendance and performance especially for girls. This has been recognized by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) which has called on member states to launch school lunches using locally produced foodstuffs.
The provision of incentives such as housing on school premises and in particular in rural schools plays a big part in reducing teachers’ absenteeism and poor performance. Simple things like heavy rain and a bicycle tyre puncture may cause a teacher who stays far from school to be absent.
The significance of rigorous and regular school inspection cannot be stressed enough. But for this to happen, inspectors have to be motivated and provided with facilities to visit schools and write reports on their findings and recommendations for corrective and follow-up actions.
During the Banyakigezi Convention (August 2008 in New York) participants discussed at length in formal and informal settings the challenges of primary education. The issues of school lunches, incentives for teachers including housing and school inspections were highlighted. It was recommended that every effort should be made through local and central governments, parents and civil society organizations to improve school performance starting with school lunches.
The minister of state for primary education should be commended for ably singling out the main challenges of school lunches and teachers incentives like housing. The government, opposition parties and indeed everyone should assist the minister of state to implement corrective measures starting with school lunches in 2009.