Discontinuing semi candidates is becoming a common practice for many so-called first-class schools that subject their learners to pre-registration tests, to determine whom they will register for national examinations, and whom to throw out, instead of helping them, improve, which is what school is for.
In the Bible, there is a story of the stone that was rejected by the builder but later became the cornerstone.
This is exactly the story of Jenkins Joel Kabi, 19, a student who was rejected at Uganda Martyrs' SS Namugongo for poor performance but ended up scoring maximum points in recently released UACE examinations.
Discontinuing semi candidates is becoming a normal practice for many hitherto first-class schools that subject their learners to pre-registration tests, to determine whom they will register for national examinations. This is normally done by schools in the quest for good grades in final examinations.
Just like many others who face this rough experience, Kabi who had studied at Uganda Martyrs' SS Numogongo right from senior one was "chopped", as it is referred to by students, in senior five after failing progression examination.
The cool-headed boy whom we found helping his uncle's agricultural store in Gayaza says that he had scored only two points out of twenty in his science combination of Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, and computing PCM/ICT.
//Cue in; “I failed to…
Cue out...it didn’t work out”//
The idea of refusing him progression to senior six was a nightmare! Kabi believes he was no poor performer but he might have made slight mistakes during the progression examinations.
He also adds that the pace at which teachers were teaching at A-level was high and he couldn’t cope, thus not understanding certain concepts yet nobody gave attention but his explanation couldn’t be bought by teachers in the face of the school policy- that requires only the best in candidate classes.
“They were rushing to complete the syllabus earlier," he recalled the experience. "To other students, this might have been okay and they seemed to be understanding but this wasn’t the case for me. They couldn’t even give you time to revise or consult.”
Dr. Fred Kabi, the father of the banished student, notes that he was puzzled by this act. He says his child used to be among the best performers right from primary where he scored aggregate five in PLE and 20 in senior four. Despite the report, Dr. Kabi who is a lecturer at Makerere University says he could not believe that the school he entrusted his child from Senior One was chopping just like that.
“I didn’t even waste my time to see the headteacher," Dr Kabi says. "The class teacher told me that there are two alternatives; the child repeats senior five with a different combination of subjects, possibly PEM or we try elsewhere. This is the practice these days, School only register students whom they think will score high to blow the name of their schools high,” the composed parent noted.
//Cue in; “We didn’t take…
Cue out...that full year.”//
Dr. Kabi says that before making any decision, his wife together with other family members had to talk down the child. Repeating the class was already difficult for Kabi, but changing his favorite combination was another big blow that he could not take.
But, getting a placement in another school was to be a rough road altogether. Dr. Kabi says that using their contacts they visited not less than seven schools, some of which they visited twice trying to convince the headteachers that their child could perform if handled well, but none could allow admitting a ‘reject’ from another school.
“//Cue in; “It wasn’t good…
Cue out...him to register.”//
He adds, during the search, he got foreign trips and left the responsibility to the mother who was updating him on a daily basis. This process was stigmatizing the child and also frustrating the parents.
The search came to an end when they went to Seeta High School Mbalala campus.
“The headteacher didn’t give us a placement but rather referred us to their new campus (Seeta High School A-Campus.) which had been set up that year. My wife reached the school, its state was not good; poor structures, in the wildness but this was our last hope,” he narrates.
Kabi, the student, says that on reaching the school he learnt that all students admitted to this campus had been rejected from other campuses of Seeta High and many other top schools in Kampala and Wakiso- in other words, a collection of those rejected.
He, however, notes that the teaching style at this school was new and better with more free teachers who were available for consultation with the school giving them more reading time.
//Cue in; “They would not…
Cue out...but for yourself.”//
Ramadhan Songa, headteacher Seeta High A-Campus, says that knowing the nature of students they had received they designed a system to help each one of them learn at his own pace. He adds that they ensure that each student is helped on an individual basis thus transforming those who were seen as rejects into high performers.
//Cue in; “The children come…
Cue out...an academic giant.”//
To him, learners’ performance can be affected by many factors, some of which are not even related to the learner directly.
“Knowing the problem that is affecting the performance of a learner is basic and from that point, you can transform them," says Songa. "And, we should also appreciate the fact that not all students are going to study and get distinctions.”
Dr. Tony Lusambu, an education consultant, says that the Kabi story is an indictment of the education system in Uganda which has failed to teach students but rather allowing schools to collect super brainers and coach them for examinations.
To him, discontinuing a student on grounds of poor performance is an indication that the school cannot do its job.
“This is a very good case study," he says. "There are reasons why students fail to perform academically, it might be the school environment, the teacher, peers among others. It should be the duty of a teacher and the school to find out and help the learner attain his full potential. Teachers are trained for this, otherwise, there wouldn’t be a need for school.”
Dr. Kabi who is also an academician says that the school system shouldn’t use examinations to determine the fate of a learner who has spent a year at a given level of education.
“Our education system is much based on the national examinations," he says. "Schools are teaching with a focus on examination alone. This is bad and is spelling doom for the country and it needs to be revised. For a student to be advised to repeat is not bad, but what is the system used to determine who repeats?”
Many parents and students are silently becoming victims of this vice ending up wasting resources and time for a decision taken by school administrators as policymakers look on.
However, Fr Herny Kasasa, headteacher of Uganda Martyrs SS, notes that before a decision is taken, a lot of factors are considered.
He says learning should not be seen as a pipeline that everyone passes through but there must be objectives to be achieved and if a student has not achieved them, he or she is advised to repeat so that he is helped out.
//Cue in; “Someone is promoted…
Cue out…does it again.”//
Rev Fr Kasasa notes that the situation is always explained to the parents and if some unique factors could have affected the student’s performance they are taken care of. However, many parents refuse the idea of repeating class thus looking for options.