Members of the Ugandan Parliament’s Committee of Education and Sports have called upon the Ministry of Education and Sports to reassess the provisions outlined in the National Teacher Policy (NTP) concerning the educational prerequisites for teachers in Early Child Care Education (ECCE). The legislators have asserted that the current requirement of a bachelor’s degree is deemed unrealistic and may necessitate revision.
This call was articulated during a meeting between the Committee of Education and Sports and officials from the Ministry of Education, led by the Minister of State for Higher Education, John Chrysostom Muyingo, along with representatives from the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC). The meeting took place on Wednesday, 23 August 2023, and featured the participation of Safia Nalule, Chairperson of the EOC, who led the commission’s team.
The motivation behind this legislative inquiry stems from a petition submitted by the Pre-Primary Teachers Training Institutions Association-Uganda (PPITA) to Parliament. The PPITA members brought to attention their concerns about the accessibility of early child care education, particularly regarding the requirement of a bachelor’s degree for pre-primary teachers.
Joseph Kikomeko, the Commissioner of Early Childhood Education within the education ministry, addressed the committee’s inquiries by explaining that the stipulation for a bachelor’s degree is strategically designed to establish a high standard for the competence and proficiency expected from pre-primary teacher trainees, educators, and leaders. He further elaborated that this policy directive has been influenced by benchmarking visits conducted across the East African region, Africa at large, and other parts of the world. Notably, ministry officials undertook benchmarking trips to countries such as Kenya, Zambia, Finland, Singapore, Canada, and Australia to inform this policy approach.
Kikomeko emphasized, “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 the way for the ECCE teachers’ national and regional integration.”
Addressing concerns about the feasibility of this requirement, Kikomeko highlighted the government’s deliberate intention to sponsor eligible ECCE certificate holders within the country to upgrade their qualifications to a Diploma in Education and, subsequently, attain a bachelor’s degree over a period of ten years.
However, Hon. Connie Nakayenze, the Independent Member of Parliament representing Mbale City, brought to the forefront a contrasting viewpoint. Nakayenze argued that children between the ages of three and eight years may not necessarily require instruction from degree holders, emphasizing the role of play, singing, and activity in their early learning processes. Moreover, Nakayenze expressed reservations about the compensation accorded to current bachelor’s degree holders, suggesting that the discrepancy between their qualifications and earnings warrants consideration.
Hon. Michael Timuzugu, a member of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) representing Kajara County, questioned the attainability of the stipulated bachelor’s degree requirement, citing underutilization of diploma holders within the sector. Timuzugu advocated for a pragmatic approach, noting that the focus should be on maximizing the potential of existing certified teachers before scaling up educational qualifications.
Adding to the discourse, Hon. Faith Nakut, the NRM District Woman Representative for Napak, expressed disappointment in the ministry’s response, highlighting a perceived lack of commitment to address the challenges faced by the ECCE sector.
Conversely, Hon. Juliet Kinyamatama, an Independent District Woman Representative for Rakai, underscored the significance of upholding the bachelor’s degree requirement within the ECCE domain. Kinyamatama emphasized the foundational role of early child care education and its lasting impact on a child’s educational journey. She suggested that not only is a degree holder’s presence pivotal at the pre-primary level, but also proposed governmental efforts to enhance the remuneration of these educators.