Ugandan Pupils, Parents Arrested Over Absenteeism

Authorities in Pallisa District last Friday arrested and cautioned 26 pupils, one student and their parents for absenting themselves from school without giving any clear reasons.

Pupils’ absenteeism is one of the key challenges in the district that has largely contributed to the declining academic performance according to district leaders.

The arrest and consequent release of pupils and their parents follows the launch of an intensive operation by the district leaders against parents who keep their school going children at home.

The operation that began last week has since left 27 pupils, majority from St John Kacherebuya and Odusai primary schools, and one student from Good Shepard Secondary School arrested and warned against the practice.

Ms Jane Francis Atuke, the Agule Sub-county chairperson, together with Mr William Emurwon, the sub-county district councillor, said similar operations will be conducted to compel both parties to comply with the authorities’ directive.

The leaders explained that the operations was intended to crack down on the increasing rate of absenteeism for school-going children.

However, majority of the pupils who were rounded up, told Daily Monitor at the sub-county headquarters that they absconded from school due to lack of scholastic materials.

This, however, prompted Ms Atuke to impose tough measures against parents of the affected pupils.

“At least between 10 and 15 pupils absent themselves from a single school for unclear reasons and resort to doing domestic work and petty business during school days,”Ms Atuke said.

She said school inspection reports reveal that a number of children have made it a habit to absent themselves from school to perform domestic activities despite introduction of the Universal Primary and Secondary education programmes.

“The persistent absenteeism of learners from schools has negatively contributed to poor performance of students for the last couple of years. It has weakened the UPE system yet teachers at their respective schools are ready to teach,” she said.

Ms Atuke advised parents to change their attitude towards education.

She blamed some parents, who force their children to stay at home and work as casual laborers in people’s gardens for purpose of earning a living due to the prevailing high poverty levels in the district.

“Parents tend to force these children to provide cheap labour in rural areas. This has remained another biggest challenge coupled with early marriages. Some parents tend to marry off these girls at tender age,” she explained.

High levels of absenteeism

She also noted that the levels of absenteeism and school dropout rate are alarming.

The district chairperson, Mr Micheal Okurut, explained that government has drawn a strategy through public dialogue [stakeholder’s involvement] to end child marriage, and absenteeism in the education sector.

The strategy, he said aims at strengthening child protection and enforcing laws against under age marriage.

“Most of our school-going children don’t complete the primary cycle but end up being forced to drop out of schools to scare birds from rice gardens and also get married at a tender age. This practice has instead ruined the future of these children at the expense of money. We [stakeholders] need to work together to scale down these vices from our people,” he said.

Statistics

Statistics at the district education office indicate that 52 per cent of the young girls in the eastern region are married off at a tender age.

“The district leaders at all levels have to take the blame for failing to monitor and supervise schools effectively. This has worsened the situation .Let’s stand up and fight for the girl child ” Mr Okurut stated.

Poor attitude

The district education officer, Mr John Francis Okuma, said the negative perception by some parents towards education has forced many school going children to drop out of schools for various reasons.

“The challenge we have is that during harvesting period, majority of these children absent themselves from school and prefer doing casual work while girls are ordered to baby sit children” he said.

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Source: The Monitor

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