National

Shs 5.5bn earmarked to promote learning in primary schools

The program follows a recent assessment by the Uganda National Examination Board (UNEB) and UWEZO Uganda, which indicated that many children leave primary schools without competencies in reading and mathematics.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in conjunction with LEGO and the Hempel Foundation, has injected $1.5m (about sh5.5bn) into the promotion of literacy and numeracy in primary schools.

The funds are injected through the Teaching at the Right level program (TaRL) being implemented by VVOB, a non-profit organisation of the Belgium government.

The program follows a recent assessment by the Uganda National Examination Board (UNEB) and UWEZO Uganda, which indicated that many children leave primary schools without competencies in reading and mathematics.

According to the VVOB education manager, Bram Thibaut, the TaRL program is a holistic approach focusing on the foundational literacy and numeracy skills of primary school learners.

Thibaut said it works by assessing learners and grouping them according to learning levels rather than age or grade, as well as using engaging activities to teach foundational skills.

“There is a learning crisis not only in Uganda but present in several countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Essentially, what it means is that even though many children are going to school, it is unfortunate that many of them are not sufficiently learning, meaning they do not have the foundation literacy and numeracy skills simply because there are serious significant difficulties in reading, writing and counting,” he said.

“We believe that the duty bearers in Uganda in the field of education including the Ministry of Education, have the obligation of offering high-quality education to all learners and this has been confirmed by the commitment to the various international agreements that the government signed,” he explained.

He observed that since 2020, VVOB has been supporting the Ministry of Education and Sports and district local governments in implementing TaRL in the five districts of Adjumani, Isingiro, Kasese, Magi-Okollo and Terego, to improve learners’ foundational skills.

Elizabeth Luganda, the VVOB district support coordinator in Isingiro, noted that the UWEZO report indicated that most of the learners in P4, 5, 6, and 7 cannot read P2 work, a reason for VVOB to come up with an intervention.

“The methodology is to build the capacity of the teachers to be able to support the learners in a simpler, enjoyable, and child-centred way, while at the same time, building the capacity in terms of literacy and numeracy skills,” she said.

Luganda during the stakeholders’ engagement held June 16 at Nakasero Primary School, noted that schools are currently testifying that many of the learners that have been part of the program have greatly improved in their academic performance.

“The assessment that we have been doing indicates that most of them at baseline are in very low levels in that, they cannot identify even simple letters or one-digit numbers, but with continuous assessment, we find that more learners are going at higher levels, able to read and comprehend and even do long divisions,” she said.

Aidan Musinguzi, the head teacher of Nyakamuru 1 Primary School said the program has enhanced the school’s enrolment from 620 to 1004 and attributed it to the care that implementers show the children.

“These people have turned the classrooms which were initially like academic prisons, where the teachers would come, sit and teach the content and move away, into using children-centred methods where the learners dominate the learning. This keeps the learners active and for that reason, many learners from the nearby schools have brought their children into our schools because of the improved performance,” he said.

Musinguzi appealed to the funders to extend the program to the nearby schools to enhance the improved performance of all learners.

The assistant commissioner in charge of private schools and institutions in the education ministry, George Mutekanga, applauded the funders and the implementers of the project, saying it has done a lot to promote numeracy and literacy amongst the learners.

“This is great work that you have done for our people especially training the trainers, instructors and mentors whom you have supported as ambassadors. We request that you scale up this program even up to private schools,” he requested.

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