Uganda’s Secondary School Agriculture needs policy realignment and instructional facilities, says new Makerere study.
Having a school garden is one of the critical support infrastructure needed to impart practical skills in secondary school children to realise economic development of the country.
A new study has revealed that Uganda’s Secondary School Agriculture needs policy realignment and instructional facilities.This was disclosed during the research dissemination workshop of Makerere University held at the Grand Global Hotel in Kampala on 19th January 2017.
The study titled, “Is the African School in the 21st Century still an enemy of the Farm? Contextualizing the pedagogy for secondary school Agriculture under Uganda’s CURASSE reform”, was carried out in June-October 2016 in four regions of Uganda.
The study looked at how to improve teaching and learning of agriculture in secondary schools in the phase of unemployment and agriculture contributing to the National Gross Development Product (NGDP).
Major findings indicated that there are many agencies involved in agriculture and technical education but BTVET is skewed against secondary schools.
The other key finding was that secondary school agriculture lacks fiscal support for practicals while agricultural teachers require in-service support to update their skills.
Provision of simple demonstrations, tools like hoes, pangas, watering cans, tractors, ferterlizers among others can help equip Ugandan students with life skills to survive after school.
Further, the study revealed that teaching is not only theoretical and examination- oriented but also, the basic teaching learning facilities are lacking in schools.
The research study was supported by Alborada Fund and the Cambridge Africa Programme for Research Excellence(CAPREx) at Makerere University, University of Cambridge UK and the University of Ghana Legon.
In Uganda, researchers visited 69 schools in 25 districts in Northern, Eastern, Central and Western Uganda and talked to 85 teachers and 85 school administrators. The districts covered include Soroti, Kaberamaido, Lira, Mbale, Kapchorwa and Jinja. Others were Kampala, Wakiso, Luweero and Masaka among others.
Presenting during the research dissemination workshop at the Grand Global Hotel in Kampala, The Principal Investigator Makerere University, Dr. John James Okiror from the Department of Extension and Innovation Studies said the general purpose of the study was to assess the vocational pedagogical needs of agriculture teachers in Uganda and Ghana.
Makerere PI. Dr. John James Okiror presenting he study findings during the workshop
Specific objectives according to Dr. J.J Okiror were to assess the context in which teaching and learning of agriculture occurs in secondary schools; examine the pedagogical methods used by agriculture teachers in secondary schools; establish the pedagogical training needs of secondary school agriculture teachers and explore opportunities for collaborative research to address the challenges.
Dr. Okiror reported that there is no coherent national policy to harmonize the provision of agricultural education and training in the country.
He told participants that the novel ideas and interests exhibited by top-level management towards agriculture subject are not backed by implementation at school level despite the clearly defined mandates of major players in the education sector.
“..Whereas secondary agriculture is fully recognized by all the stakeholders as being practical and ought to be so, it is erroneously classified as a science subject. The Ministry of Education has no clear support to secondary school farms, agriculture laboratories or other tools and equipment needed for hands –on teaching of the subject reserving such support instead for Vocational and technical institutions. Teacher training institutions are equally not facilitated despite the fact that their graduates end up in polytechnics where they are expected to teach practically”. The Don said.
A section of participants attending the workshop at the Grand Global Hotel in Kampala
Dr. Okiror further reported that there are competence based gaps in teacher education or instructors most of whom, are of mixed backgrounds, some are professional agriculture teachers, others only have the BSc in Veterinary Medicine or agriculture and, are regarded as trainers/practitioners and lack pedagogical skills.
The Don reported that secondary schools focus on theory exams yet, they are the terminal level of education for many students. This he said leaves majority of the secondary school dropouts unable to engage in practical commercial agricultural ventures.
“Another policy space we identified is that of the central role assumed by national examinations on the school timetables. The teaching approach in schools is influenced by the major target of completing the syllabus. The teachers lack initiative as the curriculum is mainly geared towards passing the examinations”, Dr. Okiror said.
Assoc. Prof. William F. Epeju from the Department of Education and Extension Studies Kyambogo University recalled that the original purpose of school gardens was to involve schools in economic development of the country.
He said, in 1967, the World Bank provided funds for the purchase of land for teaching agriculture at Kyambogo Teachers College and the land was acquired in 1970 while Makerere University on its part trained science teachers rather than Agricultural Production teachers.
Assoc. Prof. William F. Epeju (L) while presenting a paper during the workshop.
“To-date, vocational pedagogy is still weak even with renewed government support to vocational education; nobody is developing rural school farms. In 1980s, school agriculture became associated with the ‘food for work’ under the UN World Food Program. In 1990s, the Plan for modernization of Agriculture had very good propositions for agricultural education but nothing much took place apart from a draft National Agricultural Education Policy that never saw the light of the day”. The professor stated.
The study recommends that National policy prioritization for vocational agriculture should be matched by resource allocation to secondary schools and teacher training colleges as well for hands on skills development.
The role of the theoretical examination according to the study should be re-examined and the expertise enlisted towards competence based teaching and assessment in secondary schools without necessarily equating it to the lower junior certificate.
The other recommendation is that school farms should be funded inspected and head teachers sensitized to support both teaching and commercial outcomes of such farms.
And finally, the study recommends that private sector should be encouraged to invest in school farms either through public private partnerships with schools or by an education levy to local governments to support school facilities.
Report compiled by:
Communication Officer, CAES