| Juliet Tembe reports
Uganda's education system, which was very much coveted in the region in the ‘60s as the best, suffered greatly as a result of two decades of war and civil strife in the 1970s through the 1980s. The lower levels were particularly affected due to neglect by government,but also arising from poverty of the families who could not afford to pay for the school dues. Consequently, the quality of education deteriorated and enrollment dropped by 50%.
In order to address this situation, the current government which came into power in 1986, endeavored to conduct studies and analysis, to inform policies that would address the challenges.
For example, in the ECD sector, a situational analysis paved the way for the recognition of pre-primary as one of the levels of education stipulated in the new Education Act of 2008. However, provision of pre-primary education and its financing is in the hands of private agencies and parents or guardians respectively. Nonetheless, great strides have been made in ECD as a result of the existence of a policy. For example, the findings of the review of this policy (Ejuu 2012), show a marked increase in the Net Enrolment Ratio (NER) from 2.5% in 2007 to 23% in 2011 (2012). Similarly, there has been significant improvement in the quality of ECD caregivers/trainers.
A significant challenge for early education in Uganda is the highly complex linguistic situation. English and Kiswahili are the national languages, but there are 41 local languages.
This is where the African Storybook Project (ASP) will come in - providing stories in local languages that can assist children to read in their own languages.
The African Storybook Project in Uganda will be piloted at three sites - Arua, Gayaza, and Busolwe.
ARUA is located in the north west of Uganda where the central Sudanic languages are spoken (Lugbarati, Alur, Madi, Aringa as well as the neighbouring Acholi, Lbelango & Ateso). We will be working at the Primary Teachers' College, a local public primary school, and a small private nursery school in the Arua area.
The main challenge at the Arua Primary Teachers' College is that the students are taught in English, yet when they go out to the schools, they are required to teach in the local languages. There are 40 computers and a projector in the college and the tutors use them for teaching. However, they have no Internet connection, and the cost of installing this is prohibitive.
With 1800 pupils, Arua Hill Primary School faces many of the challenges of Universal Primary Education. Listen to what the teachers are saying:
“I wish what you are saying becomes real. The parents surely need to be involved. Parents don't want their children to be taught in the local languages. In Arua Hill Primary school because of the pressure from the parents we have resorted to using English as a medium of instruction and we teach Lugbara as a local language.”
Head of English Department
“I wish this project could start today. I grew up in Busoga and know stories from there as well. I could get those stories in that culture and translate for our children here.”
Focus Nursery and Junior School a privately owned organization with 60 pupils is located 25 kms from the town of Arua, deep in the rural area. It has no electricity or solar power and no reading materials for the teaching of reading.
The second site is the GAYAZA Family Literacy Centre (GFLC) in Kampala, Central Uganda. While GFLC runs a pre-school, its strength is in how it engages parents in developing their own literacy and to be able to subsequently to read with and for their children.
The library building and meeting room were built last year with a donation from Book Aid International. Although the people coming to the Centre speak a variety of languages, Luganda is the most dominant. It has been used in education since the establishment of formal education in Uganda. It is therefore more developed with a well-established orthography.
The third site is in the eastern part of Uganda. Busolwe Public Library runs a number of literacy programmes within the community where one of the smaller languages, Lunyole, is spoken.
Education (Pre-Primary, primary and post-primary) Act, 2008
Ejuu, G. (2012). The Status of implementation of the Education Sector. Early Childhood Development Policy in Uganda. Uganda National Commission for UNESCO
Ministry of Education and Sports (2008). Revised Education Sector Strategy, 2007 -2015