By Akite Beatrice Wanyama
Schools have evolved with the pressure of excelling being the pivotal of all activities. They have continued to find ways of bettering their performance at all costs. This has led to among other things; weekly tests, seminars and facilitations which UNEB has currently discontinued. Schools have gone ahead to register and deregister candidates depending on one’s performance. However, in order for the schools to maintain their performance and keep in the good books of the society, learners have suffered at the expense of such pressure. Many learners have been made to register in different centres besides the schools where they were studying on the basis of failing to make it as per the pre-registration exams. They go through the process of separating the wheat from the chaff and when they are sieved out, they have nothing to do but bow to the pressure. However, how free, fair and conclusive are these results that are simply exam oriented? Is it advisable for schools to sort out the cream de la cream in a bid to get the 100%?. The voices captured here guide us.
Mr. Twesigye David Kamara, the Deputy Head teacher of Our Lady of Africa, Mukono observes that it is not proper at all to depend on such a system. Though he says that it is helpful for schools with no centre numbers, he says that the system is costly and should not be depended on. ‘First of all, the school ought to have its own centre. Different schools have different objectives so it is challenging to switch places in a candidate class. In case the centre where a given school has had their ‘rejects‘ register in, is caught cheating, such a student suffers the consequences and yet they would have been prepared. On the side of students, Kamara explains that they get excited living in a totally new environment and meeting new students. ‘The mood of the candidate changes from exam mood to adaptation mood,’ he explains. He discourages the system saying that it is not the best practice as the world will know that the school has got 100% but at the end of the day, one lives with the guilt of the other candidates; one is responsible for the ones who would have not excelled in the other centres. At the end of it all, you would rather have prepared all the candidates. “God has not eliminated people depending on grades as we all live together in one community”, he declared
Kamara places commercialisation of education as the main lead to the practice. He says that the problem has risen as a result of looking at education in one dimension; that is training academics, ‘what about other skills?’ he queries. He calls upon those in the education sector to find a way of reconciling academics with other skills, thus, try to regulate learning so that students are trained in other fields besides academics. He encourages schools to always have entry points to promote those the school wants to register right from the lower classes and update parents on those who risk being sent away because of poor performance. He urges schools to understand why some learners do not perform to expectations as the school activities may not be favourable.
Mr. Katumba Jimmy, a teacher concurs with Kamara observing that the system is totally a form of psychological torture for the students. He discourages the practice adding that it makes learners who studied in a school their whole life with the hope of registering and sitting his or her exams in the school stranded. Besides, he explains that with such a practice, a learner is pre- judged as a stupid child therefore unfit to hold a certificate of that particular school. He cautions schools commenting that it shows that such a student wasted time to have trusted and selected that school as a choice for their education. This he observes is betrayal of the parents’ trust in the school; ‘I mean at the last minute, a child is deemed unfit by such a practice,’ he cited.
On the other hand, Mr. Echalu Jorem, the Head Teacher of Crane Hill S.S Makerere says that the choice of using the system or not depends on the standards of the school and their system. He explains that it depends on what a particular school needs. You can do it tactfully provided you do not lead the learners into thinking they are ‘junk’. You can do this by setting a limit for the number of candidates you want registered in your school, he explained.
However, the Director of Studies, Mr. Mukiibi Robert St. Mary’s S.S Nkozi says that he would not advise having the system. He says that it affects the child as they might get indiscipline because they are now not directly part of the school. Thus, the system is challenging as learners see themselves as not belonging to one school and therefore they can do anything they want. Learners are also challenged for they are already used to one environment and have a hard time adapting to another environment; a whole new school with a new system all together which destabilises the learners.
He looks at the program being costly as the parents will have to pay fees in one school, UNEB fee in another and even buy some requirements in the new school. It is inevitable to buy a uniform for example, and transporting the child to the centre during examinations might be challenging. However, he observes that such learners develop positive anger since they get resilient to work hard, perform better than their friends and prove the school wrong that they were incapable. He suggests that schools should promote excelling learners from lower classes to avoid such occurrences in the candidate class. He also calls upon heads of schools to continuously inform the parents that the child is not making progress and is not meeting the school standards.
Mr. Muhwezi Edwin, the Director of Studies, Itendero High School Sheema- Kabarole and a researcher, states that the system is not good as one of the reasons why parents select one school over the other is because of the school’s good programs, discipline being inclusive. This he says is because parents want to get certificates of a particular school. He advises schools to be careful while registering candidates as grades change according to the environment. ‘Environment has a key role to play in learners’ performance,’ he observed. He cautions schools on segregating such learners but encourages counselling sessions to aid them change their attitude and motivate them to perform better. He also suggested putting the learners on pressure to perform by using commitment letters so that they improve.
Edgar Karuhinda, a candidate discourages the practice observing that parents spend a lot of money buying things for use in the new school. He cites that it is challenging for new students having to get used to the new environment. He observes that a lot of time is spent looking for a school as most schools do not admit in candidate classes. He encourages schools not to base so much on pre-registration exams but rather promote on merit those who will be registered.
Another candidate, Mukite Bridget upholds the system saying that it is a signal for candidates to work hard. ‘Human beings learn by experience so it is ok as it is an indication that one did not work hard,’ she explained. She suggests preparing learners earlier enough from the lower classes before they reach the candidate class.
Martin Omongole also a candidate says it is not right to have such a system. He says that it inflicts so much on the parents; evident in the disorganisation in movement from school to one’s centre. This he explains indicates that the students who register from out are naturally poor performers; which is not the case as some even perform better. He calls upon schools to understand learners’ performance comple the syllabus and give topical tests to help learners improve.
Whether it is advisable to have a school with such a system depends on learners, parents and schools. The option of whether to register a student or not should be guided by the fact that ‘You shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, that it may be well with you…’ (Deuteronomy 6:18) Though learners are key in determining their future, they need guidance from those whose footsteps they are following, they deserve better!
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