Suspended Nyakasura Candidates Struggling in UCE

Senior four candidates of Nyakasura School are struggling with their Uganda Certificate of Education-UCE examinations following their indefinite suspension from the school for alleged indiscipline. 

Management ordered all senior four candidates out of the school on October 5, for stirring chaos on the night of October 4 where they assaulted the security guard who caught them with a mobile phone contrary to the school regulations.       

The students returned to the school with their parents on October 10 where 64 ring leaders of the strike were identified and suspended indefinitely. The school also fined each of the 222 candidates students Shillings 200,000 for the damage caused to the school property. 

The school allowed the affected candidates to commute from outside the campus to write their UCE exams. 

The head teacher Reverend Richardson Balinda told URN that the school could no longer accommodate the affected students. However, the candidates have revealed to URN the struggles they are going through to write their exams. The candidates, who spoke to URN on condition of anonymity for fear of stigmatization and reprisal from the school administration, say they are going through a tough situation.     

A few of the affected candidates commute from their homes while the majority rent in the school neighbourhood where they have to fend for themselves. One of the affected candidates says that every morning they gather at the main gate of the school for a roll call before they are escorted to the examination room by police officers deployed to guard the school. During the course of examinations, the students are are closely monitored.     

After each exam paper, the police officers escort the students outside the school premises. The candidates are not allowed to go anywhere beyond the examination room and are even prohibited from speaking to other students.

The candidates have a separate examination room that is located near the main gate. The candidates say that being the rainy season, sometimes it rains in the morning and they have to walk in the rain. Others commute long distances from home to school and lack food. Another candidate says that this discrimination has psychologically affected him because they are looked at as criminals, which affects his concentration on revision.

Reverend Balinda explained that the school management had to separate the candidates since those on suspension are not allowed to interact with the other students. He says that they did this to closely monitor the suspended candidates during examinations since it would be difficult if they were mixed. A female student who treks over 15 kilometres to school says that the journey is risky because she has to be on the road by 6am when it’s still dark.

At school, the students formed discussion groups to facilitate their revision, which they can’t use now because after school they have to travel back home or to their rented rooms. The students also have to look for food or do home chores, and cannot get enough time to concentrate on their books.

Other students say that the rooms they rented don’t have electricity, which means they cannot read at night. They have to make sure they do it before night falls or wait up to morning a few hours to the exams. The students say that the suspension might affect their performance and they think they will not make the grades they expected because of the hostile environment in which they are doing the examinations.    

Some of the candidates say that they were falsely accused of staging the strike. Others told our reporter that they never participated in the strike and some students who were involved were not punished. However, Reverend Balinda says that since this year started, some senior four candidates have had a series of indiscipline cases registered against them. He explains that what happened on the night of October 4 was the tip of the iceberg. 

He says that in the second term, the candidates staged a strike at the school when they were denied an opportunity to watch TV because another class was using the common room for an examination. The rowdy students damaged school property but the situation was contained and the students were cautioned and forgiven. 

He adds that majority of the students have been dodging classes and missing exams while 48 students forged names and stole new uniforms from the store. Reverend Balinda says that the expulsion of the 64 was based on the previous behaviour of the students.      Some were captured on CCTV cameras actively engaging in the strike while others were identified by their colleagues as the ringleaders. 

He says that the school has since put in place three measures to control incidents of misconduct among the students. These include the compulsory wearing of school uniform, frequent roll calls for class attendance, prep attendance, dormitory night checks, and an academic pass mark. Defaulters are booked and cautioned. Frequent defaulters attract penalties. 

Reverend Balinda says that so far, some of the suspended students are showing signs of remorse while others are still angry at the school administration for the punishment. He says that his office is getting rumours that a section of the suspended students is threatening to burn the school when they complete their exams.

He blames the strike on the COVID-19 lockdown where students spent almost two years away from school, which could have affected their morals. He also says that the automatic promotion of students to the next classes is part of the problem. 

“The students had not covered some topics, others didn’t revise during the lockdown and some were not ready for the candidate class. So they could have decided to bring confusion in the school to cover up their poor performance,” he added. According to the head teacher, the school currently has an enrolment of 1300 students. 

Nyakasura School, located in Fort Portal, is one of the oldest secondary schools in Uganda, having been established in 1926. 

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