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Education Ministry Allows Student Teachers to Carry Phones

Over the years, possessing a mobile phone in teacher training institutions, more so PTCs, has been a crime that could lead to a suspension or expulsion of a student. College authorities have also been making a timely and abrupt check to ensure that student teachers are not hiding these gadgets anywhere.
Student teachers from Kibuli PTC showing some of the instructional materials developed for school practice

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The Department of Teacher/Tutor, Instructor Education, and Training- TIET has finally lifted the ban on the use of mobile smartphones in the National Teachers’ Colleges and Primary Teachers Colleges.

Over the years, possessing a mobile phone in teacher training institutions has been a crime that could lead to the suspension or expulsion of a student-teacher. College authorities have been making abrupt checks to ensure that the student teachers do not hide gadgets anywhere.  

Moses Bateganya, a Principal Education Officer in the Department of Teacher/Tutor, Instructor Education, and Training- TIET says that the ban on phones was intended to ensure that trainees are not distracted as many could grossly misuse the devices.  

Bateganya, however, hastens to add that 'times have changed' making such policies untenable because the gadgets can be better used as instructional materials for students at this level. He notes that students will not only carry phones to colleges but they will also be allowed to use them even during class with guidance from the tutors.     

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Bateganya adds that the move is part of the broader changes in teacher education which will ensure that teachers are equipped with ICT pedagogical skills to meet the needs of learners in the 21st century.  

Joyce Zesiro Kayondo, the Principal of Shimoni Primary Teacher’s College who also doubles as the chairperson of the Principals' Association of Uganda-PAU shares that at first, the idea found resistance among principals but they changed their mindset with the advent of COVID-19.  

“When schools closed, we couldn’t reach out to learners. However, phones ended up being the best way to ensure that the teaching-learning process doesn’t end. Now, many people have seen the positive side of allowing students to be with their phones,” Kayondo says. He adds that while cell phones can be used as learning tools, it is a challenge to make sure that students are using them for school-related tasks.   

“Being a new phenomenon in our teaching-learning environment, we expect that there will be some misuses. Many students will end up using their cell phones to check social media and text their friends in class-leading to distractions for those students as well as for their peers,” she says.  

Meanwhile, Bateganya adds that the principals’ association is currently developing rules and regulations that will guide trainees on the effective use of phones while at college. This will help regulate and curb the misuse of these tools for purposes other than education.   

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Kayondo says they have also engaged students to come up with some of the rules. “For example, at Shimoni, the students themselves have suggested that if someone is found misusing the device, the gadget will be confiscated for good.”    

Annet Najjuuko, a student-teacher at Kabulasoke PTC, says that allowing teacher trainees to have smartphones has already excited everyone as they have longed for it.   

“I think someone at this level of education is mature enough to know how to effectively use the phone. But, all along teachers (trainees) have been treated as nursery kids. These days’ learners in primary in many schools carry tablets or smartphones," she says.  

Najjuuko adds that the new development will not only help teacher trainees to learn how to integrate ICT in teaching but also enable them better their performance through research on the internet as they will be open to a wide range of learning materials which at the time is available in the college libraries    

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