By Solomon Sserwanja
At the center of this year’s conversation by global leaders, educationists and policy makers at the Education World Forum in London was the call for co-operation, partnerships and collaborations between government entities and the private sector as a vehicle to tackle the education crisis.
Uganda was well represented by a delegation led by our First lady and Education Minister Janet Kataaha Museveni, who discussed with fellow delegates the achievements and challenges taking place in Uganda’s education system.
Among the achievements that our Education Ministry boasts about is the increased primary enrollment under the Universal Primary Education program. Even though enrollment grew from 3.1 million children in 1996, to 8.4 million in 2017, the World Bank reports that there are still 700,000 out of school children in Uganda. Enrollment is just one half the equation the other half is making sure than once enrolled children are learning. This is the real challenge faced by not only Uganda but education systems more generally in sub Saharan Africa.
Government’s responsibility to educate children is a large and complex one to be met adequately without participation of diverse partners. This is why it is important for government to explore broader ways of partnerships and collaborations with the private sector to achieve the Standard Development Goal 4.
One such partner is Bridge Schools that arrived in Uganda in 2015. Since it opened its doors, it has educated thousands of children in our countries most impoverished districts with the initial support and collaboration of the Ugandan Investment Authority (UIA) and subsequently the Ministry of Education and Sports (MOE&S).
For three consecutive years, the approach – which combines ongoing teacher training and support with technology – has been seen to bear fruit. Bridge has been producing some of the country’s best performing pupils in the Primary Leaving Exam (PLE), most of who hail from our most impoverished districts. The 2019 national results, recently released by the MOE&S show that this pattern continues. In the Eastern region, 67 per cent of children at Bridge achieved marks in the sought after Division one and two categories whereas only 43 per cent of Ugandan children in the region achieved scores in these divisions. Overall, 57 per cent of Bridge’s top performers achieving Division one marks came from the eastern region. The story is the same, if not even more impressive, in the Northern region; where 78 per cent of Bridge pupils achieved scored Division one or two marks, compared to only 46 per cent of children nationally. 100 per cent of Bridge pupils from Mayuge achieving Division one or two scores. In Arua, 100 per cent of boys and in Bugiri, 100 per cent of girls achieved these marks.
Many of these children are the parents of casual farmers and roadside stall owners. The only hope that they have of living a better life than their parents is education. The PLE shows that Bridge like other social enterprises in the country is supporting the government’s efforts in promoting quality education in Uganda.
Bridge is already partnering with government else where in Africa including Kenya, Nigeria, India, Liberia. The use of technology in the classroom coupled with innovative ways of delivering lessons is the improved learning outcomes being shown by independent evidence behind the increasing evidence. In neighbouring Kenya, Bridge has now entered students for the Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) fives times. Results now show that Bridge pupils in Kenya benefit from an extra two days learning a week.
The Education World Forum is a key time for ministers and policy makers to come together in dialogue. They can discuss what is working in their countries and what is not. With partnerships producing results like the ones we have seen in this years PLE, Uganda and indeed Africa can go a long way from just tinkering around the edges of education transformation, and act on the evidence accumulated over several years to provide every child with a future anchored in quality learning.