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Over 240,000 Pupils Drop Out of UPE Schools Before Reaching Primary Four - Report

According to the findings that were released last week, it is estimated that 8 percent-representing 80,000 learners studying in Universal Primary Education schools across the country drop out of school every year. As such many of them do not make it to upper primary.
Primary One and Two learners at Hormisdallen Primary School. According to the report, 80,000 pupils drop out of UPE schools every year between the classes of primary one and three

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An estimated 240,000 pupils who are enrolled in primary one under the Universal Primary Education (UPE) drop out before reaching Primary four, according to a study carried out by the Ministry of Education and Sports and Elevate- an education NGO.

The study was carried out in 150 government funded primary schools across the country.

According to the findings, it is estimated that 8 percent-representing 80,000 learners studying in UPE schools across the country drop out of school every year. As such many of them do not make it to upper primary. The study was carried out over a two year period from 2017 to 2018.

The study comes at a time when the education ministry is grappling with large drop out numbers across the education cycle starting from primary and stretching to secondary school.

Data from the ministry of education shows that on average one million learners every year enroll in primary education. However at the end of the seven year cycle, only 600,000 pupils sit for Primary Leaving Examinations. This number reduces to 300,000 at Uganda Certificate of Education and later to 100,000 students at Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education.

Sarah Kabay, the leader researcher on the study says that the level of learners dropping out of government funded schools is alarming. She says that if nothing is done to remedy the numbers, the number of pupils who leave primary is likely to reduce further.

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Kabay attributes the high numbers of school dropouts to late enrollment in schools. She says that due to late enrollment mainly in the Eastern and North Eastern parts of the country, many children lose interest. She also adds that poor transition methods within the thematic curriculum leave many learners at a disadvantage.

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Findings from the report estimate that 18 percent of the learners who drop out of UPE schools join private schools. However, due to a lack of data, it is unknown what happens to the rest of the pupils.

Officials from the education ministry that URN spoke to all intimated that the lack of an Early Childhood Development policy that would make it mandatory for all learners to attend primary school leaves many underage learners in classrooms. 

Dr. Tony Mukasa Lusambu, the assistant commissioner of basic education says that the findings are proof the Uganda’s quality of education is poor. He says the findings show that something needs to be done to address the high numbers of school dropouts in lower primary school.

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Dr. Kedrace Turyagenda, the director of education standards at the ministry of education says that such high numbers of pupils dropping out means that the sector has failed to provide education for all learners.

“Under UPE, all learners are supposed to go to school and get an education at no cost. However of we have learners dropping out before they even reach primary four. That  means we still have illiterate people in the country. This means we have to go back and see what is causing this and address it," said Dr. Turyagenda.  

Dr. Turyagenda says that some drastic measures need to be taken by all education stake holders to ensure that the numbers who enroll for primary education are reflected in the number that sits for national examinations at the end of the six year secondary cycle.

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Dr. Lusambu on the other hand believes that the solution to reducing primary school dropout rates is to include pre-primary education into government’s education structure. He says that if parents do not have to pay for nursery education for their children, more children would be joining primary school at the right ages compared to today where some enroll in primary one when they are four years old compared to the recommended six years.

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