Despite the Uganda National Examination Board-UNEB shift of guidelines to allow parents to attend the briefing sessions alongside their children, many schools have waited for them in vain.
This year, UNEB asked head teachers to conduct the briefing of the Uganda Certificate of Education-UCE candidates in the presence of parents, with a belief that they would give their children confidence as they prepare to write their final exams. However, it was the usual briefing in many schools visited by our reporters after the parents failed to show up as expected.
Fred Kibudde, a teacher of Literature at Bukulula Girls Senior Secondary school in Kalungu district says the UNEB guidelines clashed with the Ministry of Health’s precautionary measures against the possible spread of Ebola.
According to him, the health authorities asked the school to be highly cautious with visitors to eliminate the likelihood of spreading the virus in schools. He indicates that although they would allow in the parents under strict observance of the standard operating procedures, the parents did not show up for the candidates’ briefing session on Friday all together.
“This is totally a new thing that our parents were not used to, and many of them don’t value briefing. They tend to surrender all the responsibility of schools to handle, and we have not had enough sensitization of parents about its relevance,” he says.
Kibudde explains that besides that clash in guidelines, many parents couldn’t dare go to school because they were afraid of being asked to clear the pending obligations before their children are allowed to sit for the final examinations.
“Parents still owe us school requirements and fees which they have not cleared up to now, so expecting such a parent to show up at briefing before clearing these obligations is challenging,” he added.
Francis Kyasa the head teacher at Midland High School in Kawempe also said that they were not able toreceive parents to the briefing session, as proposed by UNEB, because it’s a working day and most of their parents are at work.
Some headteachers noted that the suggestion to have parents attend briefing was ill-conceived and overzealous. For instance, Edward Kanonya, headteacher Kololo SS, said that if this was to be a success, there should have been earlier arrangements to meet their children.
“If they can fail to come for PTA meetings, expecting them on such a day is hard, besides, we don’t have enough space to accommodate candidates and their parents during briefing,” Kanonya noted. His argument on space came from the fact that the school has 700 candidates who were divided into two groups to enable briefing to take place.
However, at Rwenzori Christian Vocational Secondary School, the school administrators looked for means of having small sessions with parents alone. Katya Aganatia, one of the school administrators said that during the session parents were told how they can be supportive to their children during exams and also prepare to productively handle them during the holidays.
Meanwhile, as the requirement is, many centre heads spent much of the time telling candidates about the general examinations rules and regulations. For instance, during the session, Elisha Nyabongo the Deputy Headteacher at Kabarole Adventist Secondary, also warned candidates and reminded them of the likely penalty and the likelihood of one’s action to affect his colleagues at the same centre.
Nyabongo further encouraged students to keep time and not to panic about the exams because UNEB is like other exams they have been doing at school.
The maintenance of discipline during the exam season is another concern shared by headteachers. The director of studies at Bilal Islamic Secondary School, Fahad Mabirizi, reminded the candidates that even though it will be examination time, they are still subject to all of the school rules and regulations.
On Thursday, UNEB officials warned candidates saying they will neither sympathize nor get involved in a case where a candidate is subjected to disciplinary measures by the school on account of indiscipline.
UNEB’s Dan Odongo noted that over the years they have observed that candidates at times become uncontrollable during examination thinking that they are exempted from adhering to school rules and regulation.
Meanwhile, health guidelines were among the key issues during briefing of candidates in areas of greater Mubende which are at the epicentre of the Ebola epidemic. John Nyirabakunzi, the head teacher of Kasenye Secondary School in Mubende Municipality said that they are prepared despite the Ebola outbreak in the district and that facilities are in place to avoid the spread of the disease.
He said that they have prepared in line with the guidelines set by the health ministry to ensure safety of the students. According to Nyirabakunzi, all students shall do their examinations but parents need to support their children especially those in day schools to be able to conclude their papers without any hindrance.
At Kabale Brainstorm High school in Kabale district, all 175 candidates appeared for a briefing on Friday afternoon. At the beginning of this month the school experienced a fire outbreak that gutted Kaguta and Lumumba Boy’s dormitories which were accommodating mostly senior four students. Fire destroyed students’ property including books and papers for revising to help them in UCE exams.
But Bernard Bikorwomuhangi, head teacher Kabale Brainstorm High School in Kabale district, says that the students are ready, and determined to sit exams and pass. Bikorwomuhangi says that the students who were affected by the fire have received enough psychological counseling from teachers and have now regained the determination to sit for the exams.
He also says that with cooperation among students, those whose books and papers survived the fire are sharing and discussing with the affected ones so that they all pass.
He also admitted that they have a challenge of candidates who have not yet cleared school fees. He however says that they will not be barred from sitting for exams, but the school will liaise with their parents to work out means how the dues will be paid.