The Ministry of Education and Sport has decided to restart the count down for all teachers to get degrees.
The government in 2019 passed a national teacher policy which among other things phased out lower teaching qualifications in preference for bachelor’s degree for all teachers right from nursery saying this could boost the quality of teachers and later quality of education in the country.
The policy set a period of ten years within which all teachers both in public and private schools had to attain a degree or else leave the profession. The countdown began and 2030 had been marked as the cut off year.
A source from the ministry privy to the information now says officials have come to a conclusion that it may not be possible to meet the set deadline as previously expected. The source adds that this was one of the major decision taken during the ministry’s recent retreat at the National Leadership Institute- Kyankwazi.
“From 2019 to date there are several challenges and encounters that have limited the ministry from effectively implementing the policy. For instance, teachers couldn’t go back to teaching institutions to upgrade in 2020, 2021 as education institutions were closed (due to COVID19),” they noted.
Dr Denis Mugimba, the ministry spokesperson has confirmed the development saying that soon the minister will be coming out to address the nation regarding the subject.
Dr Mugimba adds that the ministry is also considering removing the ten-year ultimatum that was passed in the policy to make the attainment of degree for teachers flexible so that they are not put under pressure.
The plan to eliminate the Grade III qualification for primary teachers and Grade V qualification for secondary teachers has caused anxiety among teachers who are uncertain about their ability to acquire the necessary qualifications within the specified period.
Grade III teachers are experiencing heightened levels of panic, as they must first obtain a diploma before pursuing the necessary degree, adding to the challenge of meeting the new qualification requirements.
Another source at the ministry headquarters at embassy house adds that the general implementation of the national teacher’s policy has experienced internal delays, which may have led the Ministry to reconsider the deadline they had set for teachers.
“In the policy there was a proposal of establishing Uganda National Teachers Institute (UNITE), which would assist teachers with lower qualifications to upgrade, however, the institute has been struggling to obtain accreditation from the National Council of Higher Education,” the source says.
In order to fully implement the policy, there is also a need to enact the Teachers Act, which would among others establish the Teacher’s Council. However, the bill is yet to be submitted to cabinet for consideration since 2019.
Another major issue delaying the implementation is funding. Previously, John Chrysostom Muyingo, the State Minister in charge of Higher Education, had announced that the government would fund the program, but emerging information indicates that there may not be enough funds to support the teachers.
Available data shows that there are over 250,000 active Grade III teachers in Uganda, almost half of the country’s teaching force and sponsoring them would require a lot of money.
All the same, with the little available resources, government has so far funded 6,116 teachers to upgrade to a diploma in education-primary and 1980 teachers to upgrade to a diploma in Early Childhood Development at Kyambogo University.
Although the Ministry of Education is still insistent on requiring all teachers to obtain degrees, some education experts are pessimistic that this may not be the best approach to addressing the issue of teacher quality.
The issue has been one of the hot topics discussed as several organisations and individuals interfaced with the ongoing Amanya Mushega-led Education Policy Review Commission, saying that whereas having degree for teachers is good, it is pretentious and over ambitious at this particular point in time for a country like Uganda.
According to various submissions, the argument has been that while the Ministry is focused on improving the quality of teachers, requiring all teachers to obtain degrees may not be the best solution.
This is because there are many examples of degree-holding teachers who are unable to effectively deliver lessons, while some Grade III teachers who have been dismissed or underestimated possess the necessary skills and abilities.