The Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB) is what it is because of the confidence and trust vested in it by Ugandan parents and students. This has made the institution play such a pivotal role in determining the future of the majority of Ugandans and foreigners that choose to pursue their education here.
Lately though, there is a growing worrying trend of very unclear and surreptitious activities going on in that institution. I’ll deal with just a few to advance my point.
UNEB has been accused of marking city schools using alot of scrutiny with the sole intention of ensuring that students do not pass highly. It baffles any futuristic thinker to imagine that an examiner would be more interested in failing a student as opposed to getting the best out of them. This is the reason why there is an apparent “drop” in performance by most largely traditionally well performing schools. The guys at the board might claim that these urban schools cheat but this kind of excuse is akin to claiming everyone in Kikuubo is a thief simply because you have a couple of experiences dealing with thieves there. Essentially, they are using the wrong yardstick to address the problem of cheating. Punishing straight schools that do not engage in cheating simply because they happen to be in Kampala, when those that cheat are even known to them is a step towards committing institutional suicide. Their relevance is gradually being questioned.
Boosting some private schools while deflating others. It is true for those that have been observant that some private schools that have highly connected owners have used UNEB as a marketing tool. There is one that I know of in the environs of Kampala that invested over 5 Billion shillings in infrastructure expansion during the last three years. Lately, they are churning out 4s like popcorn. For those who know the proprietor of this school and his interests elsewhere, a similar pattern has been established with his other secondary and primary schools. One doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to fill the jigsaw puzzle. In the process, it is also alleged that he works with the UNEB officials to ensure that schools considered as fierce rivals are badly handled during marking.
Differential grading. It is a known fact that there is a difference between the way results from rural schools are graded compared to the urban ones. Granted, they are trying to correct the distortion in terms of privilege with those in urban areas having it a lot easier than their rural counterparts. Word though has it that this doesn’t stop at the rural-urban divide but also gets applied to schools that have the right connections in place. Word is rife that there are schools that have a budget to pay the marking team used by UNEB to ensure that their students’ papers are handled favourably.
I know they always say that he that alleges bears the burden of proving. This too becomes a very hard task because of the closed nature of UNEB. How does one compel them to release information about the entire exam process? Why is it hard to get access to the transcripts of our children? If the physical ones cannot be availed, why can’t we at lest have electronic versions? Why cant we have the actual marks of these students published? I am very sure that the closed nature at UNEB is being perpetuated to protect the mafia like approach towards their underhand dealings. We are ready to challenge the status-quo if only transparency can be practised. Maybe UNEB is not guilty of some of these things we keep postulating about.
I now turn to the parents and students. UNEB results have the clout because of the trust and confidence we put in the institution as a determinant of how well our children are performing. This confidence we are always at liberty to withdraw and when we do, the institution shall remain an empty tin that is of no consequence. Just like money has value because of the confidence the citizens have in it, all this fizzles when that confidence is withdrawn. Zimbabwe is a good case to look at.
For long we have chosen to believe that the scores our children get in UNEB exams are the true reflection of their academic prowess and matters have been exacerbated by a manipulative financially driven press that keeps ramming it down our throat how these grades are the Alpha & Omega for our kids. Let us wake up and declare enough to be enough. We can’t continue like this. We can’t continue dancing to the whims of a cabal of education mafias whose primary goal is to make money at the expense of students that have put in considerable effort in their studies.
Let us push schools to start administering pre-entry examinations as a way of verifying the authenticity of their intakes. This shall go a long way in slowly weaning us off this hideous, corrupt, crooked, nefarious, untrustworthy and fraudulent body. Slowly like a plant denied of water, it shall shrivel until it’s no more.
Let us stop falling victim for the commercially driven agenda by the media of scheming for photo opportunities with our children being declared as best performers. Personally, I do not buy newspapers over the entire period when PLE, UCE and UACE results are released. It is my way of protesting the undue glorification and poor discernment in analysis that our media puts on these one time exams. I have since learnt that all they aim at is to make a financial kill without due regard about the state of mind they leave their readership in. How many of you that have made it in life can attribute their current status to appearing as a top performer in the media? It’s all hogwash aimed at further cementing brand UNEB in our minds.
Let us encourage schools to review periodic assessments of students as opposed to performance in one time exams. Why wouldn’t say a child that has been consistently performing well when assessed from Primary 6 to 7 but got 12 points in UNEB for reasons already explained earlier not be taken over another whose only claim to fame is the 4 points scored in the UNEB exam? A parent shared with me how his son who had 8 points and struggled to get into the school they wanted is now pacing the class with his worst position being third. What explains that?
As parents, let us stop rating schools primarily on how many 4s they produce at PLE because it is a very narrow lens not worthy of any parent with a holistic approach towards raising their children. It is our insatiable desire to see 4s that has led many schools to resort to underhand methods in order to manipulate performance. I once saw a comparison of students’ performance at O’Level Vs their PLE and it was simply mind boggling. Most of those that had got 4s paled significantly when compared to others that had got 6, 7 and above. Child development has its phases and occurs at different paces for everyone. You cant expect that your child will be a star performer from the time they are born till they die. While some children start off early to perform well, others start badly only to pick up and excel when they are much older.
I would like to put up a challenge, for those parents complaining about their children’s performance to publicly share their PLE results side by side with those of their children and the narrative shall change big time.
So, do we still need UNEB? Do we have the capacity to render it impotent and useless? Yes we do. Are there lawyers who can challenge the processes and secrecy of UNEB in court?
We can put them on the spot. Either they become more transparent or we remove our confidence and leave them to administer exams for South Sudan. There are always ingenious ways of rating our children as opposed to this mafia cabal that we are being subjected to.
Use the hashtag #KillUNEB to share more thoughts.