Schools Eject Their Own Learners Who Didn’t Meet Cut Off Points at O’Level

A number of traditional schools have thrown out their own students who didn’t meet the cut off score at the ongoing selection of learners joining the Advanced level of education.

Several students who requested to be admitted to schools they attended during their O’level were either on the selling list or not selected at all, with schools prioritizing students who performed better from elsewhere.

For instance, 90 students who studied at Mbale High School and made it their first choice had been placed on a selling list. The majority of these learners had scored above 40 aggregates, which is the cut-off point for Mbale High School. The selected list had more students from elsewhere than those who sat O’level from the school.

The headteacher of Budde SS, Butambala, Abdul Mukasa, also informed our reporter that the school’s cut-off point for A’level had been set at 28 aggregates. However, out of the 159 students who completed their senior four exams in 2022, only 40 met the cutoff point.

He acknowledged that this had locked out many of their former candidates who wished to join the school for A’level. However, he emphasized that these are two different levels, and it is important to set standards for those joining senior five. 

Yusuf Kawenja, the Deputy Headteacher at Masaka SS told URN that they had equally left out a number of candidates who achieved second-grade scores in the recent exams and selected Masaka SS as their first choice. The school’s admission cut-off point for girls is 33 and 27 for boys.

Kawenja sats that while the selection system can serve as a quality assurance mechanism and motivate students to work harder if they want to secure admission to the school where they have been studying, it is not ideal for a school to neglect its own students and prioritize those from other areas on the basis of academic performance.

But Gertrude Atukunda, the Headteacher of Rushanje Girls’ SS in Rwampara District says that the schools that are considered to be the best are overrated because they only admit the brightest students and then boast about their success.

“At the senior one selection, these schools only admit top performers, but at S.5, they reject students whom they have failed to teach adequately to improve their pass rates and accept those who have performed better elsewhere,” Atukunda stated.

In her opinion, while students may have the right to choose which school they want to join after O’level, the system should be restructured to ensure that former students of a particular school continue their studies at the same institution without being sieved.

“If a learner from my school wishes to study senior six from there, he or she should be given first priority regardless of their performance,” Atukunda stated. Josephat Kimeka, the Deputy Headteacher at Kisinge Vocational SS in Kasese, expressed a similar view.

Dr Jane Egau, the newly appointed chairperson of the selection committee, expressed concern about the current selection process and said that the committee is currently collecting feedback to determine its next course of action. It’s not fair for a school to be unable to admit its own students. This issue is being taken seriously,” she added.  

Dr Egau added that her new team is going to address the entire process, starting with eliminating school-based admissions, which are causing chaos in the system with schools under-declaring available vacancies. She stated that addressing a single aspect of the process may not be sufficient since the selection has been watered down and is now regarded as a laughable matter and a waste of time.

“I would like to emphasize here that we have received complaints that many of our schools under-declare and prefer school-based selections,” she stated. Dr Egau added that this issue will be handled by carrying out official monitoring to see how many actual learners are admitted.

During a side interview, Dr Egau emphasized that they will be using the new Education Management Information System -EMIS system to track the number of learners in each school.

“The system will partially help us. It can tell us how many learners are in a given class. If we see 200 yet you said your capacity was 100, we will come for you. And in the next selection, we will allocate you 200. Slowly, we will sort out this mess. Actually, the system can also help us identify those schools with learners above their cut-off point. We have other measures too.”

She, however, noted that sometimes learners are not well guided when filling Form X, with some putting wrong codes that can result in them not being placed in their schools of choice. She attributed this to the guidance and counselling teachers in schools and emphasized that they must be more careful in the coming years. 

This year’s selection process has placed a total of 221,400 learners who completed their O’Level education in various schools with their preferred subject combinations. However, there are still 108,539 learners who were not placed and are expected to either join private schools outside the selection process or enrol in technical and vocational education and training institutions.

The selection committee chairperson appealed to schools to reserve a few slots to accommodate learners whose senior four results were withheld and are still pending a decision from the Uganda National Examinations Board.

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