Legislators have asked the Ministry of Education and Sports to review the National Teacher Policy (NTP) on the education requirement of teachers in Early Child Care Education (ECCE), saying that the required bachelor’s degree is unrealistic.
Members of Parliament on the Committee of Education and Sports made the call while meeting education ministry officials, led by the Minister of State for Higher Education, John Chrysostom Muyingo and the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) on Wednesday, 23 August 2023.
The EOC team was led by its chairperson, Safia Nalule.
The officials were responding to a petition by members of the Pre-Primary Teachers Training Institutions Association-Uganda (PPITA) to Parliament on access to early child care education.
The petitioners said that the requirement of a bachelor’s degree is unfair for pre-primary teachers.
Joseph Kikomeko, the education ministry’s Commissioner of Early Childhood Education, however, told the committee that the requirement of a bachelor’s degree is geared towards setting a benchmark for the practice expected of pre-primary teacher trainees, educators and leaders, ensuring they are aptly qualified and competent.
He added that the policy is based on benchmarking visits across the East African region, Africa, and the world. The ministry officials visited Kenya, Zambia, Finland, Singapore, Canada and Australia, among others.
“The stipulation that all educators should possess at least a Bachelor of Education degree is not exclusive to Uganda. The provisions in the NTP-2019 will pave way for the ECCE teachers’ national and regional integration,” said Kikomeko.
He said that there is a deliberate effort by government to sponsor all eligible ECCE certificate holders in the country to upgrade to a Diploma in Education and eventually acquire a bachelor’s degree within 10 years.
Hon. Connie Nakayenze (Indp., Mbale City Woman Representative), however, said that children aged between three to eight years do not require to be taught by degree holders.
“I want to be given a satisfactory answer that a three-year-old child will need a degree holder to teach them, because they learn by playing, they learn by singing and activity,” said Nakayenze.
She added that even the current bachelor’s degree holders are not earning salaries which are commensurate with their qualifications.
“Do you want to convince us that when we cannot afford to pay teachers right now a degree holder’s salary, that you will afford to pay a nursery teacher the degree holder’s salary?” she asked.
Hon. Michael Timuzugu (NRM, Kajara County) said that the required bachelor’s degree is not attainable because even diploma holders are under-utilised.
“I am not comfortable with the speed at which you are moving. I do not believe we can attain that level of having teachers with degrees at pre-primary level when we have not even utilised those ones with certificates,” he said.
Hon. Faith Nakut (NRM, District Woman Representative, Napak) expressed disappointment with the ministry’s submission, saying that there is lack of goodwill to address the plight of the ECCE sector.
Hon. Juliet Kinyamatama (Indp., District Woman Representative, Rakai), however, said that the requirement of bachelor’s degree should be upheld since ECCE lays a foundation for a child’s education.
“Pre-primary is basic but the most important, having a degree holder is very important and government can work on remuneration of these teachers,” she said.