Masaka. Education authorities in Masaka Sub-region have expressed concern over the declining enrolment levels in some traditional schools in the area.
The affected schools are currently suffering a record drop in enrolment compared to what they had two decades ago.
Former academic giants
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, parents in the sub-region who wanted their children to score better grades could hardly make choices beyond schools such as Christ the King SS-Kalisizo, Kako SS, Kabuwoko SS, Kabaale- Ssanje SS, St Henry’s College Kitovu, Masaka SS, St Bernard Kisweera SS, St Charles Lwanga Kasasa, Sacred Heart Kiteredde and Kakoma SS in Rakai District, among others.
However, today many parents rely on a few of those schools, which has seen their enrolment decline.
For instance, Christ the King SS-Kalisizo currently has only 700 students compared to the more than 1,500 recorded a decade ago.
A snap survey by Daily Monitor revealed that Kabaale -Ssanje SS in Kyotera District has a population of about 750 students yet it used to have close to 1,500 four years ago. Kako SS in Masaka District registered a big decline, with 526 students in 2013 compared to 1,000 it had in 2009.
Kabuwoko Church of Uganda SS currently has only 250 students yet it had more than 1,000 students about a decade ago.
The same applies to its sister schools Kabuwoko Roman Catholic SS, St Charles Lwanga -Kasasa and Sacred Heart SS –Kiteredde, which have a population of around 400 students each yet they used to have enrolments ranging between 1,000 and 1,500 students 15 years ago.
The most affected of all schools is Katerero SS in Byakabanda Sub-County, Rakai District. The school currently has only 55 students despite having all necessary facilities.
Mr John Ssemakula, the chairperson-board of governors of Katerero SS, blames the school’s declining enrolment on the previous administration, which he claims did not perform its duties well.
“The teachers minded less about the students’ performance despite government financial support to the school,” he said during an interview on Tuesday.
He, however, said the current head teacher is collaborating well with her staff, as well as parents.
“With the current administration, we expect enrolment to increase and students will definitely also pass with flying colours,” he said.
Sister Paskazia Nawangi, the head teacher of Christ the King SS –Kalisizo, says her administration is working hard to ensure that the school claims its lost glory.
She explains that in the past years, schools such as hers used to enjoy the monopoly of offering secondary education, but many private schools have since sprung up and they charge less tuition fees compared to what her students pay.
For St Charles Lwanga SS-Kasasa, which was formerly a boys only school, its population stagnates at 420 students despite enrolling girls since 2011.
Brother Glorian Ahimbisibwe, the school head teacher, says student enrolment has greatly improved.
“In 2010, we had about 200 students, but right now, we have more than 150 girls and 270 boys, which indicates an improvement in numbers,” he said.
Mr Julius Kayabula, an alumnus and former teacher of Kabuwoko Church of Uganda SS, says the decline in enrolment was first recorded at the Advanced Level in 2010 when many students abandoned the school and joined others after sitting for their Uganda Certificate of Education examinations.
However, Ms Gertrude Ssebuggwawo, a retired principal who headed several primary teachers’ training colleges, says students who join vocational institutions after their O-Level have reduced the rate of school drop outs who used to loiter in towns looking for petty jobs.
“Parents no longer mind about the quality, but rather look for cheaper schools, hence recording less enrolment in the good schools,” Ms Ssebuggwawo, who also doubles as West Buganda Diocesan education secretary, explains.
Mr Joseph Kiyimba, who was once a parent of Kabaale Ssanje SS, says some traditional public schools do not bother to raise their enrolments since school inspectors do not mind about their academic performance.
However, on the other hand, Mr Kiyimba said private schools are supervised by the directors or school proprietors themselves, which pushes staff to deliver quality education hence attracting more students.
Mr Mathias Kimbowa, the Kyotera District education officer, said the school inspectors are doing their work despite being constrained by poor remuneration and lack of transport.