East Kololo primary school battles to improve enrollment

East Kololo Primary School
East Kololo Primary School after it was uplifted in 2012. Courtesy Photo/Faiswal Kasirye.

East Kololo Primary School in Kampala is battling the continuous drop of pupil enrolment each year. East Kololo Primary School sits on 11 acres of land along Malcolm X Avenue on Kololo hill. The school was established by the Indian community in 1958.

It majorly catered for pupils from Kololo and Bukoto flats and the neighboring communities. The head teacher, Charles Tamale, says that although the school has capacity to accommodate about 2000 pupils, currently it only has 320 pupils and 8 teachers and 4 support staff.

Olive Abigaba is the longest serving staff member in the school.   Abigaba joined East Kololo Primary School in 1987. According to Abigaba, there were more than 1000 pupils in the school when she joined, but the number has dropped to less than 400.

Abigaba explains that pupil enrollment started dropping gradually until 2001 when they registered 771 pupils. According to Abigaba, enrollment continued dropping, reaching a record low in 2015 when they registered 271 pupils.

“The numbers have gone down to the extent that the school now only has one stream for each class,” she said. Adding that, “Before we used to have three streams per class from P1 to 4 and two streams from P5 to 7.”

According to statistics obtained from East Kololo Primary school, pupil enrollment dropped by 60 percent this year compared to 2001. There were 771 pupils at East Kololo primary school in 2002 compared to the current 306 pupils representing a drop of 465 pupils. The head teacher, Charles Tamale, says he only found slightly over 100 pupils when he was posted to the school.

Asked what could have affected student enrollment, Tamale cited the introduction of Universal Primary Education (UPE) without clear policies to govern the program. “After 1996 something happened with the introduction of the UPE policy in some government schools. At East Kololo, reality is that every parent who had the money to transfer their children to other schools did so. And this trend continued,” he said.

He however, hastened to add that UPE is a good program, which needs to be improved. “The UPE policy was a good idea to help parents but government needs to make changes in it. You cannot tell parents in 1997 to pay Shillings 10,400 and still expect them to pay the same money 20 years regardless of the costs of living,” he said.

Ambrose Byaruhanga, a Mathematics teacher joined East Kololo Primary school in 2003. He believes the woes of the school emanate from a combination of issues.

Byaruhanga cites the demolition of the Naguru and Nakawa estates as one of the reasons for the decline in pupil enrollment at East Kololo Primary school. According to Byaruhanga, the demolition of the Estates prompted the affected parents to relocate with their children to other areas.

Tamale told this publication that the continuous decline of pupil enrollment has left the school scrambling for resources, which has affected the performance of pupils. “We currently have around 306 students in the school but only 94 and 92 have fully and partially paid schools fees respectively. 120 students have paid nothing. Even with government’s grant of Shillings 1.5 million, we are struggling to meet our expenses,” he said.

According to Tamale, with the meager funding, the school can’t afford to give its teaching and non-teaching staff any incentive to motivate them. “The teachers here are there physically but absent otherwise. They do not have morale to teach due to the conditions at the school. We cannot even give them a decent meal at the school every day. They no longer have morale to teach and this can be felt in the results we get at PLE,” he said.

Only 4 pupils out of the 57 who start PLE at East Kololo Primary school passed in division one, 20 in division two, 19 in division three and 7 in division four. In order to try and change the fate of this once prestigious school and take it back to its old glory, the school has begun a nursery section. There are less than 50 children in the nursery section.

Tamale says they have also started lobbying for funds from different people and companies so as to change the fortunes of the school.

But Byaruhanga believes the school can only get back its lost glory if government relocates Shimoni to Kira as promised.