As we conclude yet another Primary Leaving Examination cycle. we take joy in the big win we had WLEDE, women and duty bearers on the girls attaining a higher percentage than boys in 2023 and the significant rise of special needs pupil candidates, for us to maintain this success and even achieve more, we collectively need to handle the shockingly high drop out rates for pupils especially girls and special needs .In 2017 there were 1,965,606 pupils enrolled at P1[i] by the Uganda Bureau Of Statistics(UBOS) and the number has been slashed annual to 740,00 pupils that sat for PLE 2023, which poses a very serious question where did 1,225,606 pupils go.
Ms. Irene Namusuubo Guloba, A headteacher, says: “Around 250 of our pupils did not return this year. We cannot tell exactly where they went.” This exodus of pupils is not unusual here – some transfer to other schools, but most drop out completely, Guloba says.[i]
The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has estimated that 68% of children in Uganda who enroll in primary school are likely to drop out before finishing the prescribed seven years. An estimated 30% of girls leave school when they start their periods, often because of a lack of sanitary pads.[i]
A 2012 study found that three out of 10 pupils in primary three could read and comprehend a primary two-level story. In primary seven, the final class in the primary cycle, two out of 10 pupils could not read a primary two-level story. This has created a huge knowledge gap between children of the “haves”, studying in private schools, and the “have-nots”, in government schools. UBOS notes that the current Pupil Teacher Ratio was at 43, the pupil Classroom Ratio was at 55, and the Pupil to toilet Stance Ratio was at 50 all of which continue to explain the alarming trend.[i]
The key drivers of this trend include Gender challenges, child labor, early marriages, less motivated teachers, and lack of awareness among parents. However, the biggest challenge is poverty. It is also noted that northern and eastern Uganda – experience higher dropout rates.
We have to break this terrible Chain and sustainably tackle the massive Primary School dropouts.