Dr. Senyonyi calls for “avoiding mediocrity” to transform Uganda’s education system

Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2019/11/dr-senyonyi-calls-for-avoiding-mediocrity-to-transform-ugandas-education-system/


Dr. John Senyonyi  is pinned with the Makerere University badge by Mrs. Lorna Magara, while Dr. David Onen, Prof. Umar Kakumba and Prof. Fred Masaazi look on.

By Douglas Olum

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) notes that more than a billion children globally go to school everyday to receive education. But the quality of that education is in question.

According to UNICEF, “access to education of poor quality is tantamount to no access at all” and “the quality of education children receive is critical to genuine learning and human development.”

Uganda is among countries that live with the reality of questionable education quality. A 2013 report published by the Zimbabwe Journal of Education Research described the challenges to the quality of education in Uganda as with“sociological, economic and philosophical dimensions.” The researchers recommend an overhaul of the entire education system in both pedagogical and non-pedagogical areas.

Among leaders weighing in on education inferiority is Uganda Christian University Vice Chancellor, Rev. Canon Dr. John Senyonyi.  He addressed the issue as part of his November 14, 2019, speech at the Second Annual Prof. William Senteza Kajubi memorial lecture, held at Makerere University. Using the theme, “Fostering the quality of education in Uganda,” the event was in memory of a former two-time Vice Chancellor at the host university.

In his address as the keynote speaker, Dr. Senyonyi said that Uganda has been bedeviled and crippled politically and economically by the educated class “whose education is cerebral and constricted.”

He said it is unfortunate that quality education in Uganda has been reduced to obtaining high grades in the promotional exams.

“For years, there has been an outcry about the examination-centered approach to education in Uganda,” he said. “Examinations are necessary for assessment of the learner. Unfortunately, current trends have made examinations, promotion to the next education level and appearing in newspapers the purpose for education, rather than a means for evaluating a learner’s understanding.”

He continued: ”I confess right from the beginning that I view quality holistically. It is more than impartation of skills to do a job or research abilities. Genuine quality education should change the whole person, as a person, and his or her entire outlook and output.”

However, he said he has heard outcries from employers, government, secondary schools, universities and other institutions of higher learning that graduates are unusable.  They need to be retrained to fit the work they train for, and there is a scarcity of skilled personnel that can serve the strategic direction envisaged for national development. Among problems are that students may get high grades in Primary Leaving Examinations but are unable to keep their good grades, and that students can neither “express themselves nor spell correctly.”

Dr. Senyonyi said that quality education “must not be viewed as a dead end, but as a dynamic target achieved through responsiveness to the changing needs, facilities at both the national and international environment.” He further elaborated on he need for quality to be clearly defined and made responsive to the broad spectrum, spanning nursery (pre-school), primary, secondary, high school and higher education.

“In Uganda today we are so satisfied with mediocrity in our education, music and even the dressing, and that is very unfortunate,” Dr. Senyonyi said.

He also said that while standards are admittedly lacking across the various education levels and institutions, there are needs for adjustment in the following areas: 1) keener look on the quality of pre-primary education; 2) regulation of training institutions for instructors; 3) development of instructional materials for use at pre-primary level; 4) matching theoretical training with practicals; and 5)intentionally establishing of entrepreneurial incubation centres.

Changes he proposed include these:

Dr. David Onen, a senior lecturer at Makerere University who was the main discussant, said some of the challenges facing Uganda’s education system were a result of failure by the Government to implement some earlier recommendations contained in a report written in 1989 under the leadership of the late Prof. Kajubi and widely known as “The Kajubi Report.”

For instance, he said the Government introduced teaching children in the lower classes using their mother tongues, yet the national examinations are conducted in English. That was something not included in the Kajubi report. He wondered out loud where the spirit of corruption that has eaten through Uganda’s systems come from when students are not taught at the same levels in schools.

Makerere University First Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Academic Affairs, Dr. Umar Kakumba, who represented the university’s Vice Chancellor, said the theme of the lecture came at the right time when institutions world over are grappling with the issue of quality.

He said while Uganda has seen an increased accessibility and expansion of institutions of higher learning, there has emerged “an increasing challenge of ensuring the quality of education.”


For more of these stories and experiences by and about Uganda Christian University (UCU) students and graduates, visit https://www.ugandapartners.org.

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