Gulu High Schools – A long way to go

A couple of weeks ago, some of our Gulu Friends were among high school students who sat their first set of big exams in their 4th year of high school. The senior 4 exams. These are kind of equivalent to GCSE (England), and NCEA level 1(New Zealand). Americans can fill me in if I’m wrong, but you don’t seem to be any equivalent. These exams are important, as if you pass, you can become a nurse, or primary school teacher. I wish the candidates all the best!

Unfortunately though, many Gulu students won’t have great resuts. Inequality is obvious in Uganda, and nowhere more so than in education. Gulu high schools perform poorly compared with other parts of the country, especially Kampala. It’s a well known phenomenon that as soon as anyone gets enough money in Gulu, they send their kids off to school in Kampala. We’ll see why below.

Early this year, The Observer newspaper made a great summary of the Senior 4 results from 2017.  I’ve used that for my analysis. Keep in mind that this analysis only considers last year, only considers ‘first grades’, the top level of performance, and doesn’t consider other holistic education that isn’t measured in tests. I’m not saying that test results are the only thing that matter. But they do matter.

31,000 students achieved first grade in senior 4 across the country

Only 220 students from Gulu, Nwoya, Omoro and Amuru districts achieved a first grade

I’ve made 5 observations/opinions from this table below. I hope they will be useful  those training teachers and uplifting schools, as well as those who are considering where to send their children to school, or suggesting schools for sponsorsed children.

High School Name 1st grades Percentage 1st grade
Students sitting District
ST.JOSEPH’S COLLEGE,LAYIBI 67 50% 123 GULU
OCER CAMPION JESUIT 46 66% 70 GULU
POPE JOHN PAUL II COLLEGE 35 32% 110 GULU
SACRED HEART 22 19% 117 GULU
GULU CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL 10 5% 191 GULU
BISHOP ANGELO NEGRI 7 17% 41 GULU
GRACELAND GIRLS’ 6 12% 52 GULU
RESTORE LEADERSHIP 5 16.% 31 AMURU
GULU COLLEGE 4 2.% 195 GULU
GULU HIGH SCHOOL 2 3% 77 GULU
KORO SECONDARY SCHOOL 2 3% 79 GULU
GULU ARMY SECONDARY 2 2% 95 GULU
SIR SAMUEL BAKER SCHOOL 2 2% 96 GULU
GULU SECONDARY SCHOOL 2 1% 238 GULU
KOCH GOMA SECONDARY S 2 3% 70 NWOYA
ALERO SECONDARY SCHOOL 1 2% 48 NWOYA
POPE PAUL VI 1 1% 113 NWOYA
PAICHO SECONDARY SCHOOL 1 1.% 70 GULU

These are ONLY the schools that got any first grades at all. 15 other schools which are not listed here in Gulu and Amuru Districts got no first grades at all.

  1. To give your child a decent chance of achieving high grades it’s only worth sending kids to one of about 5 schools which are all in Gulu town.

The top performing school in terms of gross number of first grades was St. Joseph College Layibi with 67 students getting a first grade. It may surprise some that Ocer Campion College North of Gulu did very well too, with 46 first grades from only 70 sitting students. Other well known schools like Pope John Paul and Sacred heart performed much worse, with 35 and 22 first grades respectively. I find it especially sad that the top Girls school Sacred Heart produced so few top performing students. Only 5 schools produced over 80% of the 217 first grades achieved.

number-of-first-grades.jpg

 

  1. If you live more than 10km out of Gulu, there is no ‘local school’ where your child can perform well. Your only good option is to send them to town.

Out of the 220 first grades earned, only 5 were achieved in schools more than 10km from Gulu town borders. There are two inequality divides. Both the Northern Uganda/Central Uganda divide, and the Urban/Rural divide. Over 80% of the population in Northern Uganda lives outside Gulu town, but there are no good high schools in ‘the village’, as Ugandans would say.

Out of the 4 high schools with students sitting senior 4 in Amuru district (an incredibly low number given the population there), only one school achieved any 1st grades. This is Restore high school. with 5 out of 31 students passing the exam. Nwoya district was similar with only 4 students from their schools achieving first grade. If you are a farmer anywhere in the rural expanse of Amuru or Nwoya district, there is nowhere close to home to send your kid to high school.

  1. There are many schools, even in Gulu town where children have close to zero chance of getting a first grade. Don’t send kids to these schools.

Around half of the schools in Gulu, Nwoya, Omoro and Amuru District got no first grades at all. Even some Gulu Town schools suffered this fate. Large city schools like Gulu College, Gulu Secondary and Gulu High were notably poor with only a handful of first grades between them.

4. The best way to get a first grade, is probably to go to a top Kampala school.

Unfortunately the best bet currently is to send your kid to a ludicrously expensive, distant high school in central Uganda. 24 out of the top 25 ranked schools were from the central region, and 20 of those were from Kampala itself. No Gulu school was ranked in the top 80 by the Observer newspaper. We need to drastically improve our schools here in Gulu, to reduce the inequalities and make life easier for all the parents who want the best for their kids to access quality education.

  1. Few kids progress from primary school to sit high school exams

Around 9000 kids (I think, can be corrected) sat Primary Leaving Examination last year across the districts of Gulu, Omoro, Amuru and Nwoya. We only see 1900 kids sitting senior 4. For every 5 kids that sit primary leaving examination, only 1 sits senior 4. Some of this discrepancy will be accounted for by movement to Kampala high schools after primary school, but not most of it.We need to do to better at keeping kids in school. The barriers to progressing are obvious. Poor performance in primary school leaving exam, money for school fees, and poor high school teaching which leads to dropout before Senior 4.

gulu-kids.jpg

I believe that things will get better, and in 5 years time things will be looking more rosy for students both in Gulu town, and more importantly in rural areas. But there’s a lot of work to be done!

 

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5 Responses to Gulu High Schools – A long way to go

  1. Pete says:

    Thanks for this. I hope you are right that matters are likely to improve. Pete

  2. David D says:

    Why are things going to change in the next 5 years?

    • ntlaing says:

      That’s a good question. Perhaps I’m hoping, more than believing! Hopefully the NGO and government attention that is mostly focused on primary schools, will start to feed through also into high school performance. We will see!

  3. Thank you Nick for your comments on this data. This is very sobering. I believe also that education for primary age children will get better and in time will positively affect our senior students.
    The North is still scraping by and crawling out of the war years. Trama, malnutrition, lack of resources and opportunity, etc… are holding back our teachers, parents and children.
    The North also needs to make it more attractive to teach here. I’m sure the best teachers teach at these highly ranked schools.
    Wow – so many challenges.
    Everything rises and falls on leadership. Most of the responsibility for success lies with our top level education leaders. Long term solutions are poorly implemented in poverty zones. One major problem is that corruption usually takes the lion share.
    Enough musings.

    • ntlaing says:

      Great observations Reynold. Your certainly right about the best teachers being at the highly ranked schools. I’m sure many of the best teachers from the region are also in Kampala. Hopefully the leadership will come through.

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