By WACHIRA KIGOTHO
Parents in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda must start facing the hard facts that most of their children in schools are not learning. Simply put, children are not acquiring basic reading and numeracy skills during their early years of primary education.
According to a comprehensive study undertaken by Uwezo East Africa, an initiative that promotes access to information and improved service delivery outcomes across the region, more than two-thirds of pupils enrolled at Standard Three level in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania cannot pass basic tests in English, Kiswahili or numeracy set at the Standard Two level. That means about 70 per cent of Standard Three pupils cannot read, write or count.
However, the problem is far reaching in that about 10 per cent of children in Standard Eight are unable to perform Standard Two level assignments. The situation is worse among the poor, where children from socio-economically disadvantaged households perform poorly in all areas in comparison to their counterparts from affluent backgrounds.
Prof Sarah Ruto, the Regional Manager for Uwezo East Africa, says the study is the most comprehensive of its kind to be undertaken in the region.
“About 350,000 children in more than 150,000 households across the three countries were tested in their ability to perform basic numeracy and literacy tasks at the Standard Two level,” she says.
According to Unesco, Standard Two represents the ground level in which core literacy and numeracy competencies and skills should be acquired in primary schools. However, whereas more than 90 per cent of school-age children are schooling, they are not learning core skills expected at their age and grade level.
Performance in Kiswahili
The Uwezo study that was carried out in 2011, says education seems to have deteriorated. Whereas, on average, only about a third of children in this region possess basic literacy and numeracy skills, only 32 per cent of the Standard Three pupils were able to pass the Kiswahili tests for Standard Two and 29 per cent in numeracy tests.
According to the report, only 16 per cent were able to pass English tests while 15 per cent were able to pass both the literacy and numeracy tests combined. Nonetheless, the study established that most pupils acquired Standard Two level skills in upper primary (between Standard Four and Six).