It is now becoming the norm for schools, both public and private, to ignore guidelines issued by the Ministry of Education and Sports. The rebellious spirit surfaced on Monday as schools marked the beginning of the Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE).
Prior to the briefing, the Ministry of Education issued a circular that, in addition to suspending school visitations and leaver’s parties, discouraged non-essential out-of-school trips by learners in boarding.
The ministry also directed that non-candidate pupils in the day section stay home on Tuesday and Monday and banned parents from picking non-candidate pupils from the boarding section until the term ends due to the Ebola outbreak.
However, a cross-section of schools has completely done the opposite. For instance, non-candidates in many schools in and around Kampala visited by our reporters did not attend school. Several schools sent away learners from the boarding section.
“Some of the decisions made in the guidelines do not match with the situation on the ground, and that is why some schools don’t follow them.” “In some cases, communications come late,” said Hasadu Kirabira, the chairperson of the National Private Education Institutions.
Thomas Kitandwe, the headteacher of Kampala Quality Primary School, defended his decision to keep non-candidates away on Monday, saying that they wanted to create a conducive environment for the learners.
At Kitante Primary School, more than 10 classrooms had already been organized for use by the candidates even before they went for the briefing on Monday morning.
With a total of 368 pupils, 20 of whom are from the neighboring KinderKare International School, the candidates would be shown to their respective rooms Tuesday morning, where they would write their examinations.
The headteacher of Kitante Primary School, Jane Kyakuwa, says that they organized the classes on Monday to prepare better for the papers starting Tuesday morning.
Similarly, at Homisdallen Nursery and Primary School in Kamwokya, there were no classes except for the briefing of P.7 candidates. The headteacher, Godfrey Kimbugwe, said that even with a small population of day scholars, they have blocked them and their parents from accessing the school. He said that they couldn’t have classes on Monday as they were preparing for the examinations.
At Buganda Road Primary School, parents were allowed to attend the briefing with their children. According to the school, briefing parents was equally important since some of the malpractices and other issues that affect candidates might arise from home given the fact that all learners are day scholars.
James Jjuuko, the school’s head teacher, warned parents not to get involved in examination malpractices. “Some of you at times get material from different sources and give it to learners.” This will confuse our learners; please desist from this practice. “You might affect your child and also put our center at risk,” he said.
Several schools had also invited parents to pick up non-candidates from the boarding section, while others released them over the weekend and expected them to remain at home for the entire week. During the briefing, headteachers took the candidates through the UNEB rules and regulations, spelling out what material is allowed to be carried into an examination room, what time the exam starts, and how candidates are expected to behave.
At many centers, pupils were also warned against malpractice and the likely consequences if one is caught. Many other schools also told pupils what they should eat or drink and what they shouldn’t during the examination period. For instance, at Nsooba Parents Primary School, the headteacher warned pupils against using drugs during the examination period. This warning was not out of the blue given the fact that the school is located in the Kamwokya suburbs, which have had prior incidents of pupils abusing drugs.
“I humbly appeal to you. Don’t dare use drugs, at least these days. I know some of you might be tempted to use drugs. I hear there are kuba and green leaves, which some people think give them extra alertness. “That is not true,” said the head teacher.
In Luweero, headteachers advised the learners not to panic, to pray to God, and to avoid examination malpractices. Rev. Samuel Serwanja, the vicar of St Mark Cathedral Church, prayed for candidates at Luwero Boys Primary School so that they wouldn’t panic in the examination room and later anointed them with oil to pass the exams.
Robert Kulabako, the director of Kasana Quality Primary School, also cautioned the candidates against any exam malpractice, saying this would taint their image and school.
As the candidate’s briefing was going on, several district education officers were also briefing UNEB officials like scouts and invigilators. Speaking with our reporter, Patrick Alituha, the Fort Portal City Education Officer noted that such an activity helps the officials, especially those who will be officiating for the first time, understand how they will conduct their duties.
Alicia added that after the briefing, officials received all the instruments they needed to execute their duties. A total of 832,810 candidates are expected to sit this year’s PLE at 14,153 examination centers, which will begin Tuesday with mathematics.