St. Mary’s College Kisubi, Mt. St. Mary’s Namagunga, Makerere College School, King’s College Budo and Gayaza High School are ahead of the pack
Stable leadership has helped academically strong schools maintain a brilliant streak of performance at O-level over the last 10 years.
A snap survey conducted by The Observer on O-level results covering the last 10 years shows that St. Mary’s College Kisubi, Mt. St. Mary’s Namagunga, Makerere College School, King’s College Budo, Gayaza High School, and St. Henry’s College Kitovu, have maintained their prowess.
These schools have consistently emerged among the best performers because their head teachers have established and maintained high standards of management and administration, and such standards have been carried on by their successors.
Bro. Edward Bukenya is the brain behind St. Mary’s College Kisubi, while at the helm of Makerere College School is Agnes Sebayiga. Victoria Serunkuuma Kisarale who took over from Joy Male runs Gayaza High School.
Patrick Baka Male is the designated driver of the success at King’s College Budo, having taken over from George William Semivule. In some cases, like St. Mary’s College Kisubi and Mt. St. Mary’s Namagunga, the head is usually succeeded by a long-serving deputy or senior teacher.
According to the former head of the Education Inspectorate, Fagil Mandy, school heads are critical in determining how a school performs.
“I strongly hold that schools are what they are because of the school heads. The school is a system, which the head teacher oversees,” Mandy says.
He adds that these schools have succeeded because they are run on the basis of longstanding traditions that have proved to be effective.
“Sometimes a new head teacher comes in, finds a system that is fixed and all they ought to do is to adjust slightly and keep the standards,” he said.
Mandy maintains that head teachers should be given all the support they need by all stakeholders if their schools are to prosper. This includes teamwork, sufficient resources and infrastructure.
In cases where the school heads have moved on abruptly, the school standard has collapsed drastically. According to Mandy, schools run on systems and culture which the school head teacher must maintain.
Once the head teacher fails to maintain such a system or culture, the school loses its standing. He says this explains the general decline in the performance of schools like Namasagali College, Kyambogo College, Nabumali High School, Teso College Aloet and Tororo Girls, among others.
However, other schools have soldiered on despite the numerous changes in leadership, but their performance has not returned to the glory years of the early 2000s. These include Namilyango College, Trinity College Nabbingo, Maryhill High School, Ntare School, Mbarara High School, Kigezi College Butobere, Kibuli SS, Lubiri SS, Busoga College Mwiri and Kigezi High School. These schools have taken to remaining in the same class, just marginally off the top 20 schools in the country.
Then there is that class of schools that pop up once in a while and then disappear again, like St. Joseph’s Girls Nsambya, Gombe SS, St. Joseph’s SS Naggalama, Kawempe Muslim SS, Kiira College Butiki, St. Joseph’s College Ombachi, Jinja College, Iganga SS, Wanyange Girls School, and Christ the King Girls SS Kalisizo.
Others which sneak in and out are St. Joseph’s College Layibi, Bulo Parents Mpigi and Immaculate Heart Girls SS Nyakibale. Schools like Bweranyangi Girls, St. Maria Goretti SS Katende, Mityana SS and St. Peter’s Nsambya have all but ceased to appear on the list of the top 20 schools in the country over the last three years.
Up to 2002, old heavyweights like St. Joseph’s College Ombachi, Dr. Obote College Boroboro and Lango College were enjoying a revival in fortunes, along with St. Joseph’s Vocational School Mbarara.
Only Mengo SS has managed to continue its revival following the acquisition of the former head teacher of King’s College Budo, Samuel Busuulwa. He has since been succeeded by the former head teacher of Ndejje SS, George William Semivule.
Mandy explains that school head teachers leave for different reasons. There are those that are transferred by the Ministry of Education as a way of streamlining good performance across the country.
He believes that the Ministry of Education is not clear about the criteria to be followed in transferring head teachers. Mandy says the ministry needs to look at the school system before changing the school head.
“How can you change me and take me to a school if I don’t understand the system there and whether it works or needs to be changed,” he asked.
Mandy, who is now into consultancy, says the ministry should choose the right person to be transferred to the right school.
“Until that is done, you’ll not provide remedies to schools that need to improve performance,” he counseled.
Then there are the head teachers who do well, and decide that they can start their own private school and thrive. This is the group of head teachers responsible for a new class of emerging schools that is seeking to join the established powerhouses.
These include the group of schools run as the St. Lawrence Schools and Colleges owned by former teacher, Lawrence Mukiibi. Others are St. Mary’s SS Kitende, which started showing promise in 2003, Seeta High School, Naalya SS, Seroma Christian High School, Merryland High School and Namirembe Hillside.
Head teachers are not the only factors behind schools’ performance. Some schools attract average students at one level, say S.1, who go on to perform well at O-level and then opt for another school for their A-level, owing to their performance.
As a result, some schools perform better at A-level than at O-level and vice versa. The Commissioner for Secondary Education, Francis Agula, says performance is also influenced by facilities like staffing, instructional materials and the original input at recruitment.
He says certain schools recruit the brightest into S. 1 and that it would be naïve to expect such students not to excel at S.4. In fact, he observes, many times schools that don’t recruit the cream eventually do better, but releasing S.4 results without comparison with P.7 results hides that fact.
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