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Radio, TV lessons unearth dawn of cram work in Uganda’s Education – Experts

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Lessons encouraged by the Education Ministry during the lockdown do not promote learning and acquisition of life skills but push learners to cram according to educationists.

Radio and television stations are currently conducting lessons in line with a call to ensure that every child can stay safe while still acquiring knowledge in the comfort of their homes during the Covid-19 lockdown. The schools were closed on March 20 to help Uganda forestall the spread of coronavirus -COVID-19, a measure which left up to 15 million learners stranded in homes across the country.

In the aftermath, the Education Minister Janet Museveni outed a framework proposing  that lessons would be delivered through print and self-study home packages, recorded lessons and live presentations on radio, television-lessons and online uploads which will be sent to learners through mobile phones.

The Ministry of Education Permanent Secretary Alex Kakooza communicated that teaching and learning during the lockdown period will focus on competencies including problem-solving, confidence and imparting life skills.

However, the current lessons aired on radio and television stations do not seem to consider the guidelines. Many of the teachers are coaching instead of teaching learners and to help them attain the skills they ought to get out of the designed content.

A female teacher on one of the radio stations who was teaching the skill of writing a friendly letter to a primary seven class reduced the entire lesson to an examination writing orientation. “If you want to get more marks,” she kept saying while making learners cram several words that they should use which she could as well spell and repeat. Another teacher openly pointed out a concept which is unexaminable and advised learners not to waste time on it.

Dr Jane Egau Okou- The Commissioner Teacher Education and Instruction made similar observations after listening to a number of lessons and noted that the broadcasts have exposed the different pedagogical challenges among teachers.

Over the years, the Uganda National Examinations Board-UNEB has blamed the poor performance in national exams to the candidates’ failure to apply knowledge learnt in problem-solving situations or express themselves freely and become more comfortable with questions that are direct and based on recall.

Rev Ronald Okello, the secretary for the Education Commission at Uganda Episcopal Conference observes that the Uganda education system stopped imparting skills in learners long ago and the entire focus was directed towards passing exams, a rationale which he says is driving the television and radio lessons.

Issa Matovu, an educationist says that what is currently happening is a blessing in disguise for the stakeholders in the education system to see, judge and improve the teaching mode and subsequently the outcome.

“All along these vices have been hidden in classrooms. And whenever we could comment on them, we appeared like fighting certain schools or the ministry. Now that the entire public is listening, we should all have our say,” says Matovu.

Education consultant Fagil Mandy notes that although some challenges might come with teaching on the radio which includes feedback and involvement of the learner, there are basics that should not be compromised. He however adds that the teachers might be distracted by the new setting and operating environment.

Meanwhile, Dr Egau notes that the Ministry is currently developing a mechanism to ensure that teachers going on air are well prepared and also deliver the right content using the right methods.

She argues that the ministry has appointed someone to prepare the teachers particularly for lessons aired on UBC radio and UBC television. Similarly, they have had a meeting briefing centre coordinating tutors in different areas to ensure that teachers are well prepared on top of supervising the content aired and different approaches used.

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