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Education madness in Uganda at its highest

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Students from Uganda participating in a past regional event/FIle

At the age of three years, most children can neither read nor write; they can neither spell their names or write the first two letters of the same in any coherent pattern…these children are so young, and all they deserve is to observe and slowly begin to grow. However, what is currently prevailing in many schools offering nursery teaching is far from the ideal as toddlers are subjected to tedious exercises that overstretch their innocent brains.

While going though one child’s end of term file, I came across branded examination papers, blue in colour and reading, “Makindye Division Baby Class Examinations”. Aw! So the Division spends so much money to prepare external written examinations for three-year old toddlers! Hmmm, and I wondered just how their work is even marked.

For starters, since the children do not know how to write as yet, the teachers get them started by writing the names on their behalf; then they must literally push them all the way just because it is a requirement to sit [and I guess pass] exams!

I am still struggling to understand just where this entire obsession about written exams emanated from. I think setting written examinations for toddlers who scarcely understand what this is all about, is wrong and something ought to be done about it. Children must be allowed to enjoy being children, to do all the silly things they will obviously not be free to do when they are adults, for through all that, they are able to discover their paths.

The best that formal examinations achieve, is to blockade children’s opportunity to naturally navigate their lives, as well as an attempt to define who is stupid and who is bright on accord of the answers they are able to write, if any. This is what examinations depict even among the adults, but which to me, is utter nonsense, because passing exams has never necessarily amounted to an individual being bright. There are a thousand and one ways to ascertain a student’s competence without necessarily having to sit examinations.

Of course as parents, we may be partly to blame for paying so much to send these toddlers to school at such a tender age…partners in crime we may be termed. However, education institutions are presumed to have the necessary expertise required to prepare children’s brains for the world ahead of them.

However, in no way does setting examinations for a three-year old toddler manifest this expertise…no way. Many parents enroll their babies in school as early as one and a half years in the so-called daycare centres, usually for lack of the right care givers at home and the need to juggle between child rearing and work.

In the end, what we reap is a child so stressed up at an early age as a result of the strenuous assignments they are subjected to. And when my three-year old baby walked to me and said, “Daddy, P.4 is hard”, I could imagine what is running in her mind even when she may not necessarily be aware of what P.4 actually is.

My suspicion is that someone out there could be using these examinations to justify some expenditure of tax payers’ money, and for this reason, they must be investigated. The other explanation could be that the examiners genuinely have good intentions, but they may not be aware of the likely dangers of what they are doing.

Well, my arguments may not necessarily be supported by empirical evidence, but again, I do not think that anyone needs to have studied rocket science to appreciate that setting written exams for a toddler is unnecessary.

All this quickly reminds me of one time when I took my daughter for Primary One entry interviews. I was around as she was being interviewed, and by all means, she answered right all that she was asked. To my dismay, when we came to check on the results, we were told that she had not passed the interviews!

My daughter always dreamed of joining the school because we used to talk about it as one of the good schools around town, and whenever we passed by the school, she already could feel a part of it…sadly, her dream was blown away.

Aware that many parents desire of their children to study at Greenhill, the school had published books detailing its history, which every child sitting the interviews was required to buy irrespective of whether they got a place or not. This— in addition to the interview fees. The interviews had been opened to so many, and indeed these people made money through selling their books albeit tactfully. I think that someone must wake up and provide due oversight to avoid our education system going crazier especially when it comes to handling children at the very foundation of their academic journey.

We must let children enjoy their childhood through games, singing, dancing and having fun their way. A bit of counting and alphabet may be introduced slowly in small doses. However, toddlers must honestly be excused of the rigors of examinations until such a time when they are mature enough at least to understand what examination is all about.

And if this were a submission in Parliament, I would say, “Madam Speaker, I beg to move”; but you too can form your own opinion about the issue at stake. Hopefully we can one day find our way to a point of convergence.

 

By: Tumusiime K. Deo

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