The Education Ministry in Uganda is grappling with a significant problem of teacher absenteeism. This issue has resulted in a substantial loss of funds for the education sector. According to a recent report from the Inspectorate of Government, Uganda’s education sector lost approximately Shs1.5 trillion between January and June of 2022 due to teacher absenteeism.
The report indicates that teacher absenteeism is the primary cause of financial losses in the education sector, significantly affecting instructional time. This complex problem is influenced by various factors. The loss of public education funds due to corruption is the second most significant issue, amounting to Shs244.6 billion during the studied period. Additionally, bribery accounted for Shs39.08 billion in losses.
Ms. Ketty Lamaro, the Education Ministry Permanent Secretary, acknowledged the severity of the teacher absenteeism problem. She explained that the government introduced the Teacher Effectiveness and Learner Achievement (TELA) automated system to address this issue. Initially, the system required teachers to log in at their duty stations using thumbprints, later upgrading to facial recognition technology. However, the system faced challenges, such as poor Internet coverage in upcountry schools.
Ms. Lamaro recommended collaborative efforts within the education sector to tackle teacher absenteeism effectively. She highlighted the need for increased monitoring at all levels to ensure the system’s success.
Mr. Filbert Baguma, the Secretary-General of Uganda National Teachers’ Union (UNATU), expressed concerns that the situation might worsen due to salary discrepancies and economic conditions. He emphasized the importance of addressing teacher welfare and the root causes of absenteeism.
Mr. Moses Byaruhanga, a senior presidential advisor, supported the government’s technological approach to combating absenteeism and corruption through the TELA system. He stressed the need for increased support for this initiative.
Mr. Gerald Karyeija, the dean of public administration at Uganda Management Institute, pointed out the cultural dimension of absenteeism in rural areas. He suggested focusing on cultural adjustment mechanisms and strengthening leadership and supervisory skills in schools, along with implementing a robust reward system for high-performing educators.
The Inspectorate of Government arrived at the total financial figure for teacher absenteeism losses by calculating the cost of lost teaching hours for students. On average, seven hours of classroom time are lost each day due to absenteeism, equating to 478 hours annually for one student. With 9,600,000 students in secondary and primary schools and an average cost of teaching per student at Shs3,269, the total cost of absenteeism is estimated at Shs1.47 trillion.