The number of candidates who are failing to turn up to sit the Primary Leaving Examinations has increased.
According to Uganda National Examination Board, 832,654 candidates from 14,691centres registered for Primary Leaving Examination in 2022 compared to 749,761in 2020.
The results released on Friday by Dan. N. Odongo, the Executive Director of UNEB, show that a total of 17,253 (2.96%) UPE candidates were absent, while 3,687 (1.48%) non-UPE candidates were also absent.
The Minister of Education and Sports, Janet Kataha Museveni, expressed concern about an increase in absenteeism among candidates in the country. She has noted that the number of absentee candidates has been steadily declining in the last four years, but has recently increased by 0.8 percent.
The Minister believes that this increase in absenteeism is detrimental to the nation, families, and children, and has directed all schools and education sector stakeholders in every district to investigate the root cause of this problem and find a lasting solution.
According to the report, Wakiso district had the highest number of absentees in the primary leaving examination, with a total of 1067 out of 71,566 registered candidates failing to show up on examination day. In Kampala, a total of 597 out of 38,105 candidates did not turn up, while in Mukono district, 544 out of 23,380 candidates were absent.
In Nakasongola District, 246 out of 4,606 candidates missed the exams, and in Luweero district, 385 out of 15,706 candidates were not present on examination day.
It should be noted that the number of absentee candidates at the primary leaving examination level has been decreasing in recent years. For example, the number of absentees in 2017 was 2.3 percent (14,907) but by the last sitting, it had decreased to 1.8 percent of registered candidates.
The Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB) report for the 2020 examination attributed the increase in absenteeism to the effects of COVID-19. However, this time around the board did not offer any reason for the high number of candidates who registered but failed to show up for the examination.
Robert Kulabako the Director of Kasana Quality Primary School in Luwero town blamed the absenteeism on the COVID-19 lockdown and teenage pregnancies. Kulabako explained that some pupils registered but dropped out before sitting exams because they went back to do the petty jobs which opened up during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Samuel Mbangire, the Nakasongola District Inspector of Schools, says that some candidates don’t turn up because they live with parents who constantly move due to the nature of their jobs.
Mbangire cited children of charcoal burners and farmers who move to other areas before they sit PLE. Mbangire however promised that each school will be asked to account per candidate who didn’t sit exams so as to find permanent solutions to the problems.
It is also reported that some learners were denied access to the examinations because they had not yet paid their school fees.
Janet Museveni also expressed concern about the low number of students that complete the primary level. She noted that to solve the issue every district needs to look into this matter and address the root cause if the country is to find a lasting solution.
According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics over 62 percent of learners who enroll in primary schools across the country do not complete the Primary cycle of education. The figures also show that 98 percent of learners drop out of school in the areas of Karamoja.
Over time, the high cost of school fees and lack of access to schools have been identified as factors contributing to students dropping out of school. The Minister has acknowledged that the government is trying to address these issues by constructing more public schools and regulating school fees.
The issue of regulating school fees is already a contentious topic among the public. The Minister has called on schools to keep their school fees as they were in the third term, as the government works to finalize its decision on the matter.
However, her call may have come too late as many schools have already increased their fees for the upcoming term and parents have already paid either a portion or all of the charges.