Tag Archives: exams

Parents, let’s Kill UNEB

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.

Wire James


Budo, SMACK, Gayaza etal Stop digging your graves

All through his primary school studies, the young man had his eyes on Kings College Budo (herein referred to as Budo) as his school of choice for secondary education. His parents always reminded him that the only obstacle between him and Budo was obtaining Aggregate 4 in his Primary Leaving Examinations. He promised himself to get those grades and read like his whole world depended on it.

When the results came out, like the adage says, hard work pays, he had the required aggregate 4 to enter Budo as a star pupil. Celebrations ensued at his home with relatives, friends and neighbours congratulating him. His gait even changed to one befitting a Budonian (we all know how they be). After the school selections hat taken place, the young man wasn’t considered for a place at his most highly coveted school.


I know of pupils that got Aggregate 8 and above who have already secured admission

This led him to stage a campaign of defiance that has seen him refuse to leave the confines of Budo until he’s given a satisfactory reason why he wasn’t admitted.


Pupils at Buganda Road Primary School studying hard to join the much coveted traditional secondary schools like Budo, SMACK, Gayaza among others.

Reading that story in the Daily Monitor brought tears to my eyes. This is yet another injustice being meted upon the powerless. Having been born in a modest family without the trappings of political or economic power, the young man is being denied what is rightfully his. As anger welled up inside me, I recalled myself exactly thirty years ago, having passed with similar grades, I had chosen St Mary’s College Kisubi (SMACK) as my first choice and without any underhand dealings, was duly selected to join the school. What is it that has changed between then and now?

Towards the end of the academic year, many school head teachers in the so called big name Church, Government and Private schools rub their palms with glee as they fathom the upcoming windfall of money that is likely to exchange hands as parents venture as far as the moon to ensure their children join these highly coveted schools. In an earlier post on this issue, I indicated how the few available places in some of these schools are already over subscribed by allocations dedicated to various interest groups. Let’s take Kings College Budo as an example, the interest groups I know of are; Church of Uganda, Buganda Kingdom, State House, Ministry of Education and the Old Students Association. Their lists of students are the first to be approved even before considering the genuine cases of high achievers. This is what must have led to the scenario of that young man.

As a result, Budo and schools of its kind have become hotspots for those with technical-know-who as well as the moneyed elite. Budo is what it is because of the one hundred plus years it has been around churning out highly brilliant merit laden students who have gone ahead to change this nation and the world we live in. By going against the ethos that has seen them select students on merit, they are merrily digging their own grave, albeit in the manner of a slow killing poison. I keep hearing some pedestrian commentators trying to chest thump asking where students of the lesser known schools are and which sectors of the economy they are managing but my assurance to you is that most of these lesser known schools are hardly two decades old and their graduates are probably at best 38 – 40 years old. Using the law of probabilities, one might need to wait another couple of years before you see them swamp the economy. Their numbers are growing slowly but surely.

Back to Budo, with all this injustice they are meting upon brilliant students in order to please the selfish desires of a few who do not care about the school’s long term survival, I guarantee you the grave being dug will definitel be more than six feet. An analysis of the overall performance of schools nationwide reveals that those in Western Uganda are catching up very fast and shall definitely overtake the traditional Central Uganda big guns within the next five to eight years. They are achieving this by concentrating on the core issues while taking advantage of not being under pressure. Take time and ask State House, Church of Uganda and the Ministry of Education how many lists they send to schools like Ntare in Western Uganda and you’ll be hard pressed to find any worth talking about. That very Ntare is however one of the leading schools today according to the metrics in place. Don’t you really think there is a sinister plot to swamp the school with more students than it can handle, hence leading to a poorer learning environment which eventually yields half baked graduates? Think about it.

Another trait of bad manners these high sounding traditional schools have come up with is financially burdening parents. Look at the case of SMACK that is requesting for UGX 500,000/= as Special Development Fees to each Senior One student joining on top of an already hefty school fees sum of UGX 1,900,000/=.


How is a low income parent expected to cope with such?

In Gayaza High School(Gayaza), a generator maintenance surcharge is required and a quick count indicates that the school can afford to buy a brand new generator each term at this rate. When will all this nonsense stop? Have parents been turned into cash cows? Should poor or modest family heads be made to slave away just to maintain a child in Gayaza?

The era of training 21st century students with a 20th century mindset has to cease. I am a proud old student of SMACK but one thing I can admit is that the prioritisation of quantity over quality has put me off totally to the extent that I wouldn’t recommend anyone with a radical mindset like mine to take their child to those traditional big guns. It is time they rethought their strategy otherwise today’s perceived minnows will eclipse them tomorrow when their products excel where it matters, THE WORK PLACE.

Are you a parent? Remember, it’s your actions among other factors that are greatly contributing to this nonsense going on in our schools. If you and me say NO to bribing for places, NO to seeking special consideration, NO to depriving legitimate qualified candidates a place, NO to paying incomprehensible extra fees, NO to grilling our children merely to pass exams, NO to high teacher to student ratios, then we shall have begun our journey of making Uganda’s education system great again. Let’s fight from within.

To the student and parent that have staged a sit down strike at Kings College Buddo, thank you for that stand of defiance. I’m with you 100%. You’ve kindled the light that just might lead to a tsunami whose wake of destruction might actually save our schools from heading into oblivion.

In Bunyole, we have a proverb, “esoŋera ehugwa mwibwa nj’ehwenda (The fly that lands on your wound is the one that loves you)“.

To the likes of Budo, SMACK, Gayaza, Namagunga, Namilyango among others, I may be that fly today, irritating you with my dooms day talk but take it from me, if you don’t wake up, a decade from now, you’ll be history. It’s because I pride in your continued existence that I have taken time off to share my observations.


A blog reader who prefers to remain anonymous did contribute this article titled “Is Uganda’s Education System going to the dogs?” Read on, interesting analysis they’ve got.

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