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Fate of Students Who Will Fail, Miss This Year's UCE Exams Remains Uncertain :: Uganda Radionetwork

Fate of Students Who Will Fail, Miss This Year's UCE Exams Remains Uncertain

When the matter was highlighted, some officials at the ministry of education and concerned agencies first dismissed it, as “senseless”. Now, as the examination dates for this year draw near, the urgency of getting answers becoming increasingly evident, and interest in obtaining a resolution is on the rise.
21 Sep 2023 09:51
Kitante Hill School Candidates Ready For UCE Examinations

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There is uncertainty regarding the fate of students who will fail the examinations or do not turn up for this year's Uganda Certificate of Education- UCE Exams. This is as the Uganda National Examinations Board-UNEB prepares to administer final examinations under the phasing out of the lower secondary curriculum.

This issue, seen as a significant oversight in the curriculum's development and rollout, was first brought to light by Uganda Radio Network.

When the matter was highlighted, some officials at the Ministry of Education and concerned agencies first dismissed it, as “senseless”.  Now, as the examination dates for this year draw near, the urgency of getting answers is becoming increasingly evident, and interest in obtaining a resolution is on the rise.

Dan N Odongo, the Executive Director of  UNEB, has acknowledged the challenge at hand and admits that, as of now, no viable solution has been reached.

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However, Odongo said that the board, working with the ministry and other responsible agencies, they are actively exploring potential options to support students who may find themselves in this predicament.      

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Odongo made the remarks on Wednesday at a conference of district education officers and inspectors of schools ahead of the field activities and the start of the national examinations. 

The primary concern revolves around the future prospects of students who may face various challenges related to their participation in this year's exams. This includes those who are unable to take the exams, those who unfortunately do not perform well, and those who wish to retake the exams to improve their results and align with their future aspirations.

The concerns are grounded in statistics that have emerged in the assessment cycles over the years. For instance, in 2020, out of 333,396 candidates registered for the UCE, 2,804 did not appear for the exams, according to UNEB data.

Similarly, in previous years, there were instances where a significant number of candidates did not sit the exams despite registering: 6,652 in 2016, 6,655 in 2015, 4,229 in 2014, and 6,756 in 2013. While some of these candidates may have dropped out of school entirely, a considerable portion might have temporarily paused their studies and later returned to sit the exams in the following year.

Additionally, there is a distinct group of students who fail their exams and are advised to repeat senior four. For example, in 2018, 42,334 candidates who took the UCE exams did not pass. Even in the 2020 examination cycle, 18,415 candidates faced the same outcome.

The question arises as to how these students will navigate the process of repeating their senior four examinations. This, too, presents another aspect of the curriculum transition that requires consideration.

In addition to the categories mentioned, there are also candidates who register as mature students. How their assessment will be especially with the introduction of continuous assessment elements, remains to be seen.

A source, who is a teacher at one of the schools, emphasized the critical nature of this category. Many special needs learners who may have scored a grade U at the primary level often proceed to secondary education and register as mature students when they reach senior four.

"This has been the practice. And now we don't know how the students already enrolled will be treated. We need to know how learners in the category of mature entry will be handled beyond 2023,” the source stated.

When the matter was raised last year, voices from education circles and within the ministry suggested that to circumvent the issue, all learners, including those who fail, could potentially be allowed to progress to the next level of education.

However, the essence of the assessment process would be called into question if all learners, including those who fail, were allowed to advance to the next level of education. UNEB officials do not appear to endorse this approach either.

There was also a discussion that those who have been studying under the old curriculum and would be unable to sit for exams in 2023 could potentially go back to senior one to learn under the new curriculum and undergo the new assessment. However, immediately following this suggestion, the Education Ministry Spokesperson, Dr. Denis Mugimba, stated that this would not be a viable solution.

Odongo said that once a clear solution is identified, UNEB, as the apex authority for assessment, will communicate it to the public through the media.


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Meanwhile, the conference was overshadowed by the persistent examination malpractice, which has become a recurring issue at the meetings. Local government officials and UNEB were pointing fingers at each other as potential sources of examination leaks.

Ogondo noted that there is clear evidence indicating that officials from certain districts go to UNEB to face the security committee after suspected cases of malpractice, which serves as an indication that there is a problem in those specific areas.    

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Peter Ogwang, the State Minister in charge of sports, who represented Minister Janet Kataha Museveni, expressed gratitude to UNEB for their efforts to combat malpractice, including the introduction of new regulations and punitive laws. However, he also observed that the fight against malpractice is currently being lost at the local government and school levels.


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The minister emphasized that since the areas where malpractice occurs are known, that in itself is half the solution. He also raised concerns about why the same local governments have been implicated in malpractice cases over the years and suggested that it's high time those responsible for promoting such misconduct be harshly handled as a stern example to deter others.    

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France Atima, the Acting Permanent Secretary at the ministry, pointed out the need to provide financial assistance to certain local governments so that they can acquire permanent vehicles to aid in the distribution of examinations. Distribution of examinations has become a weak link in the system, alongside issues like impersonation.

Atima noted that many local governments lack sufficient funds to secure reliable means of transporting examinations, leading them to rely on untrusted distributors and even bodabodas.

It is reported that schools, particularly those in urban areas, are exploiting the challenges in distribution to gain easier access to examinations. An example of this occurred in the previous year's examination when a headteacher from a school in Wakiso traveled to rural Mpigi to take advantage of the flawed distribution system. However, luck was not on his side, as he and his accomplices were caught red-handed after tampering with the package.

According to Atima, providing better vehicles for such areas will improve the distribution process and reduce the opportunities for exploitation and malpractice.


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In addition to vehicle procurement, UNEB has raised concerns about local governments failing to allocate sufficient funds for primary-level examinations, which are primarily within their jurisdiction. To address this shortfall, the Executive Director and Chairperson of UNEB have emphasized the importance of the government considering this when allocating funds to the board.

Patrick Kaboyo, a member of the UNEB board, highlighted that the board will require increased funding in light of the demanding nature of the new curriculum. He further emphasized that the board is making preparations to effectively conduct assessments under this new curriculum.

A total of 1,224,371 candidates have been registered to take their final examinations across the three education levels, namely the Primary Leaving Examination (PLE), Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE), and Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE).

The national examinations for this year are scheduled to commence on October 13, with the briefing of UCE candidates, and will continue until November 17, 2023. PLE will be conducted from November 7 to 9, 2023, while UACE will take place from November 10 to December 1, 2023.

UNEB views the PLE as the most challenging among these three examinations.

Consequently, the board is preparing to ensure a smooth administration, with a deployment of slightly over 60,000 personnel dedicated to handling this particular examination this year.      

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