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Teachers caught up in paradox of abridged curriculum

Ministry of Education and Sports introduced the abridged curriculum to guide teachers as schools reopened in January.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | There is a growing concern on the use of the abridged curriculum with schools and teachers raising eminent issues which seem to have been ignored by the authorities in the Ministry of Education and Sports.

Whereas the ministry is rooting for a compressed or an abridged curriculum ostensibly to fast-track teaching and learning and make up for the time lost during the prolonged school closure triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers are struggling to implement it.

URN carried out a survey in different parts of the country and spoke to various teachers who raised concerns ranging from lack of access to the curriculum, to orientation on how to implement the “unheard of concept”- abridged curriculum.

No Access 

Godfrey Ansasire, the headteacher of Kengoma primary school in Kabale municipality, says that the biggest hurdle is the lack of access to the curriculum they are meant to implement.

As Ansasire notes, the government has not distributed the hard copies of the curriculum which they expect teachers to implement. In a recent media engagement, the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Education Ketty Lamaro, noted that the government is still in the procurement process to contract a company that will print and distribute the curriculum.

To bridge the gap, Ansasire says there have been efforts to share soft copies of the curriculum in question but many teachers and headteachers in their district lack smartphones.

David Byamugisha, the headteacher of Kigezi High primary school in the Northern Division in Kabale municipality, says that he received a soft copy from the Centre Coordinating Tutor-CCT and the school allocated some money from its budget to make printouts, which they distributed to their teachers.

Schools in Masaka, Gulu, and Luweero areas are also resorting to printing copies for their teachers to access the content of the curriculum. Santo Opiro, the Headmaster of UNIFAT Primary School in Gulu City, says that they received soft copies for P.2 to P.7. He however says that they have only been able to print copies for P.5 to P.7 due to limited finances.

According to Opiro, some teachers in lower classes are using the standard curriculum while others are using soft copies of the condensed curriculum as they wait for the school to print the hard copies, which he says comes with great challenges when there is no power and internet.

Christine Ocitti, the Headmistress of Christ Church Primary school notes that the school spent over Shillings 300,000 to print copies of the curriculum and avail them to all the teachers. Ocitti says the money they spent was meant for other activities but she had to divert it due to the urgency of the matter.

In Mbarara, Godwin Nsiimire, Deputy Headteacher of Kakuto Secondary school, says that access to the curriculum is difficult in rural schools due to the lack of internet and the fact that many teachers lack smartphones. Richard Tumusiime, the Head Teacher of Kayenje Primary school also from Mbarara, says that when a softcopy is received on WhatsApp by chance, teachers copy it using pens.

The headteachers point to the fact that access to the abridged curriculum is greatly impacted by the technology divide yet ministry officials comfortably think all teachers can have equal access. Our reporter in greater Mukono made this observation after visiting several schools.

In rural areas where teachers have failed to access the abridged curriculum, both government and private schools have decided to devise means of teaching using the old standard curriculum. Brian Kakaire, the Head Teacher for Science High School, says the ministry passed on the directive of using the abridged curriculum late and no copies of the same were delivered making it impossible to implement.

No training

Two weeks after school reopening, the National Curriculum Development Centre-NCDC organized training on how to use the abridged curriculum. The training was on zoom. Our reporter attended the two days training. On the first day, the host of the training wasted over three hours organizing members who seemed alien to zoom, an online application that facilitates meetings.

Poor connectivity of the internet from NCDC disrupted several hours of training for the secondary section as the moderators kept going on and off.  The zoom meeting was scheduled to run from morning to evening. However, many teachers attended for a short while and went offline. This can be blamed on the fact that not many teachers had data to keep them online for two whole days.

A government school teacher in Masaka who requested to remain anonymous to freely comment on the matter described the training as “madness”. “The people at the ministry think that teachers could attend a zoom meeting for an entire day. The zoom space itself was limited to some 500 participants, how many teachers are in Uganda? Whoever is planning for our ministry must have been bewitched, “the headteacher fumed.

Asked why they didn’t conduct sufficient training, many officials at the education ministry have always replied that teachers do need the training to use the abridged curriculum given the fact that there is nothing new in the curriculum. However, recently Ketty Lamaro, the Education Ministry Permanent Secretary, noted that the ministry is soon going to start carrying out training and orientation in different areas.

In areas like Kampala, training on how to implement the abridged curriculum kicked off last weekend. According to KCCA, the NCDC played its part when it developed and released the curriculum but they have realized that the online training was insufficient and many teachers missed out.

Idi Mubarak Musimami, the inclusive Education officer at KCCA, says the training program will run up to March 12, 2022, targeting three teachers from each school. The three will include the headteacher, deputy, and Director of Studies who will be responsible for teaching their colleagues back to school.

When schools fully reopened in January, several administrators found it a huge challenge to decide on the content they could give the learners as the ministry had not yet provided the abridged curriculum. Up to date, some schools are still struggling to implement the said curriculum.

Zaidi Kulumba, the headteacher of Kawempe Muslim primary school, says that before the KCCA training on the curriculum, the school was instructing learners using the old curriculum starting with the content that was uncovered by the learners in the previous class.

David Byamugisha, headteacher of Kigezi High primary school in Northern Division, Kabale municipality also says that for teachers to master the curriculum, the school administration has instituted departmental meetings for teachers to share experience and challenges they find in implementing the bridged curriculum.

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URN

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