Attendance patterns and causes of dropout in primary schools in Uganda: a case study of 16 schools
Musisi, Nakanyike B.
Balihuta, A. M.
MetadataShow full item record
In 1997 the Government of Uganda launched the Universal Primary Education (UPE) program. The 1999 enrollment data collected by the headcount exercise and the school census of 2000 demonstrate that the program has been successful in increasing enrollment rates both for boys and girls. More than 6 million pupils were enrolled in primary education in 1999. However, available information suggests that there are high rates of dropout to the extent that only about 39% of the children that enrolled in primary one in 1997 managed to get to primary five in 2001. High levels of absenteeism, repetition, transfers and non-enrollment have also been observed. The purpose of this study was to investigate the causes of such trends and to get views from various stakeholders about possible remedies to these problems. The study was commissioned by the Ministry of Education and Sports and implemented by Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR). The Ministry considered the study to be important for several reasons. Firstly, when a student is frequently absent or fails to master a minimum of skills and competences and is forced to repeat the grade, the cost to educate that student doubles. Secondly, because any dropout before primary 5 will not have mastered literacy, the cost to the education system will not lead to a literate individual and will therefore have been wasteful. Thirdly, the government policy of poverty eradication aims at educating all children to the end of primary level and will have been let down if children who enroll in schools do not stay there. The EMIS 2001 data was used to guide selection of 16 schools from 8 districts in the four regions of the country taking schools that were reported to have the highest and lowest dropout rates in each of the selected districts. The data supplied to EMIS was verified in all the selected schools by scrutinizing school registers from 1997 to the present for absenteeism, repetition, transfers and dropout as well as interviews with head teachers and class teachers. A questionnaire was developed by the research team and used to interview individual pupils who have dropped out of school, those regularly absent and those who have transferred from other schools. Qualitative methods were used to get perceptions of local leaders, parents and teachers about causes of the problems under study and possible remedies. In each of the schools with the highest dropout twenty pupils were interviewed on the causes of absenteeism, dropout, repetition and transfers. This means that a total of 160 in-depth pupil interviews were conducted. The parents or guardians, community leaders, as well as the teachers and school administrators were also interviewed using focused group discussions on the level of seriousness of non-enrolment, absenteeism, repetition, dropout and transfers, as well as the causes of and remedies to these problems. In each high dropout Focused Group Discussions (FGDs) were held with 12 members of the community, including representative teachers, and parents, community leaders. This means that FGDs were held with a total of 48 persons. On the other hand, in each of the primary schools with zero the research group verified whether indeed that selected school had a zero dropout as reported in the EMIS data. The research team also carried out detailed observation of the schools and prepared profiles for each of them. The findings of the study are informed by triangulated data from all these data sources.