Low Turn Up in Lira Schools as Harvesting Season Starts Top story

1917 Views Lira, Uganda

In short
At Amokoge Primary School, the inspection team arrived just after midday and found only 377 out of the 543 registered pupils in the school. The pupils were busy playing in the compound without any activity in classes. None of the more than 10 teachers was found at school. On learning that an inspection team was in the school, however, six of the teachers including the head teacher who were all busy in their maize gardens, hurriedly sneaked in and straight into the classrooms to start teaching. Some were still dressed in their garden outfits.

There is poor turn up of both children and teachers in most schools in Lira district as harvesting season kicks off.
 
An impromptu visit to a number of primary schools by Lira district leadership found out that most children have abandoned school to help their parents in garden activities.
 
Many teachers are also more engaged in their garden work and not bothered about their school activities.
 
Robert Abak, the Lira Resident District Commissioner who led the monitoring team describes the situation in most schools as deplorable. He says much as parents are to blame for the poor enrollment in the school, head teachers must be held accountable for failing to supervise their teachers most of whom turn up at school at the time they want and do not deliver as expected of them.
 
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Alex Oremo Alot, the Lira District local council chairperson, says there is an urgent need for the district to come up with by-laws to address the problem.
 
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Paul Achak, the Executive Director of Lira NGO Forum, blames the problem on the local leaders and school management committees whom he accused of failing in their responsibilities.
 
He said they should consider training the school management committees or consider electing new members who are committed and capable of doing the job.
 
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At Amokoge Primary School, the team arrived just after midday when they found only 377 out of the 543 registered pupils in the school. The pupils were busy playing in the compound without any activity in classes.
 
None of the more than 10 teachers was found at school. However, on learning that an inspection team was in the school, six of the teachers including the head teacher who were all busy in their maize gardens, hurriedly sneaked into the school and straight into the class to start teaching. Some were still dressed in their garden outfits including sandals.
 
Here, only one of the four lessons was conducted in each class of primary five, six and seven. Children in the lower classes of primary one, two, three and four had not had any lesson yet.
 
The team was shocked by the scene at the school. They demanded an explanation from the head teacher over what they described as ugly state of affairs at the school.
 
Dickens Odwar, the school head teacher apologised. Odwar who claims he is still new in the school, however, blamed the laxity on parents who he said were not bothered about the affairs of the school. He accused some parents of holding their children at home to help them in garden work as harvesting season starts. It is harvesting season for groundnuts, beans and maize.
 
He said on several occasions that he has called for a parents and teachers' meeting, but not a single parent has turned up.
 
Odwar said parents are also adamant to pay the school development fund of 9,500 shillings to supplement Universal Primary Education (UPE) funds. As such he said he has been running the school using his personal money. He claims that in Term One only 20 parents paid the development fund while this term only two parents have so far paid the fees.
 
At Awiodyek Primary School, the team arrived at about 2pm. Only 510 of the 828 registered pupils had turned up at school.
 
Here, at least lessons were going on. However, the head teacher, Catherine Adur, complained that most parents were not bothered about the welfare of their children at school. Adur also said many parents hold their children at home to help them in garden work only to release them for schools as late as 10am. She said in most cases classes start late because majority of children report to school by 10:30am.
 
Adur was concerned that the school activities are affected by the famous Amach Market which starts on Thursday and runs throughout the weekend. She said from Thursday the school registers very low turn up of children, sometimes less than 100, as majority of them prefer to go to the market to do odd jobs to earn them and their parents a living. Most of them get involved in collecting water and firewood for the South Sudanese traders who come to buy livestock in the market.
 
At Ayito Primary School at about 3:00pm, there were only 540 pupils, just over a half of the more than 900 registered pupils. The school head teacher blames the low turn up on parents whom he said prefer to hold their children home to help them in garden work.
 
He explained that during harvest seasons, very few children turn up to school.
 
The monitoring team resolved to hold meetings with parents in all the 74 government aided primary schools in Lira district to sensitise them on the need for the education of their children.

 

About the author

Denis Olaka
Denis Olaka is the URN bureau chief for Lira, in northern Uganda. Apac and Otuke fall under his docket. Olaka has been a URN staff member since 2011.

Olaka started his journalism career in 2000 as a news reporter, anchor, and then editor for Radio Lira in Lira district. He was subsequently an editor with Lira's Radio Wa in 2004 and Gulu district's Mega FM.

He was also a freelance writer for the Daily Monitor and Red Pepper newspapers.

Olaka's journalism focuses on politics, health, agriculture and education. He does a lot of crime reporting too.