The ministry of education has implored faith-based organisations to introduce a pre-primary school programme at all schools they run in an effort to address the low enrolment of children in pre-primary schools.
The request was made in a meeting that brought together the ministry of education, its affiliated agencies, faith-based organisations and district vice-mayors among other stakeholders.
The ministry said that net enrolment rate in pre-primary schools was at 20.8 per cent in 2018 and there is need of joint interventions of government, private schools and faith-based organizations to increase the rate to at least 45 per cent by 2024 through increasing pre-primary school classrooms and having more teachers with expertise in early childhood education.
Eugene Mutimura, the Minister of Education said that a consensus was reached to work with faith-based organisations to reduce this gap.
“We still have a small number of pre-primary schools. We have reached a consensus that over 1, 800 primary schools under public and faith-based organisations management will also introduce pre-primary schools programme,” he disclosed.
He also said that the ministry agreed with districts and other institutions to partner in increasing number of pre-primary schools across the country.
“We are first increasing pre-primary classrooms and then prepare teachers for those schools,” he said.
Samuel Mulindwa, the permanent secretary at the ministry of education added that low enrolment in pre-primary school greatly affects students’ competitiveness in the next levels of education.
“Pupils lack basic skills given in pre-primary schools which make them uncompetitive in primary schools. This leads to school drop-out and repetition rates and this, as consequence, reduces enrolment rate in lower secondary school,” he said.
He said that net enrolment rate in lower secondary schools is at 27.2 per cent due to high dropout and repetition rate which is at 6.7 per cent and 13.4 per cent respectively in primary schools according to 2018 figures.
“We have target to reach at least 56.2 per cent net enrolment rate in lower secondary school in 2024 by reducing primary school dropout rate and repetition rate to 1.2 per cent and 2.9 per cent respectively,” he said.
Since pre-primary education is the foundation of other education levels, the ministry said that Early Childhood Development Centres (ECDCs) will also contribute to the increase of pre-primary schools and that faith-based organization can play a big role.
An ECD provides combines services which include learning, nutrition, hygiene for better health to children aged three to six.
Dr Anita Asiimwe, the Coordinator of National Early Childhood Development Programme (NECDP) said that ECD facilities have increased from 4,109 in 2017 to 11,208 ECD facilities in 2019.
“25 per cent of these facilities are run by faith-based organisations,” she said.
She said that every year, there is an estimated 987, 861 children between 3-6 years meaning that there are 66 children in every village among 14, 837 villages across the country.
In order to reach 45 per cent of these 987, 861 which is 444,357 children aged three to six by 2024, Asiimwe said that at least one Community Based ECD facility with capacity of a minimum 15 children or 3 Home Based ECDs with a capacity of between 10 and 15 children are needed per village.
Jered Kalimba, The Bishop of Shyogwe Diocese in Anglican Church said that the church is committed to availing a pre-primary school at different establishments under the church.
“We are partnering with government to improve quality education. We agreed with the ministry of education that wherever we have churches and schools, we must also set up an Early Childhood Development Centre or pre-primary school. It is not good that a child reaches six years and attend primary school without having attended primary school,” he said.
He said that by next year, they will have 500 Early Childhood Development Centres, an increase from about 380 ECD facilities across the country.