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Uncertainty Shrouds Final Year Student Teachers

Earlier on, educationists and principals had suggested that the institutions conduct mock school practice or peer training so that the student teachers could qualify together with their counterparts in other programmes upon completion of final examinations. This meant that the trainees would be assessed by their tutors.

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The fate of final year student teachers' remains uncertain because of the inability to complete their study programme amidst the closure of schools. Student teachers have been waiting to carry out a mandatory school practice before they can be passed out, to join the world of work.   

According to the Ministry of Education calendar for candidates and final year students-2020, trainees at National Teachers’ Colleges and Primary Teachers’ Colleges were expected to conduct their school practice from January to March 2021.  

However, the school practice which is intended to expose trainees to a real classroom environment could not be conducted. Schools and other tertiary institutions have remained closed for almost a year, following a government decision to reduce places with large gatherings, as a measure to forestall the spread of COVID-19. 

Earlier on, educationists and principals had suggested that the institutions conduct mock school practice or peer training so that the student teachers could qualify together with their counterparts in other programmes upon completion of final examinations.   This meant that the trainees would be assessed by their tutors. 

However, the Ministry of Education objected to this and maintained that school practice can only be carried out in a real school setting to give trainees a better picture of not only the teaching-learning process and pedagogy but also, the entire school environment.

In September schools were partially opened to facilitate learning for only candidate classes. The government has since announced that effective March 1, school’s gates will be opened for another set of learners, including those in Primary Six, Senior three and Senior Five. 

Herbert Ssemuwemba, the Principal of Canon Apollo Core PTC, Fort Portal, who also doubles as the vice-chairperson of PTC principals, notes that with the expected school reopening for non-candidates, they hoped that they were close to cross the bridge. However, Ssemuwemba is concerned that the student teachers may still not be able to go through the school practice. 

“They have allowed semi-candidates to return at the moment. That group is not enough for the trainee to have a school experience,” Ssemuwemba says. Meantime, Hajjat Aidah Nambuusi, the Principal of Kibuli Core PTC, notes that they are also concerned about delays in opening for lower primary classes. 

“In the primary, for instance, trainees specialize either to teach upper or lower classes. However, pupils in lower primary might delay returning to school. This makes everything complicated and school practice being an examination, it cannot be for the selected few,” Hajjat Nambuusi said. She adds that the delays might cause congestion in the system given the fact that they are going to reopen for non-candidate and soon fresh trainee will be coming in.  

Dr Jane Egua-Okou, the Director for Higher Technical Vocational Education and Training in the Ministry of Education and Sports, says that all the worries on the fate of teacher trainees are going to be resolved. Although she did not give specific timelines, Dr Egua notes that the ministry intends to hold meetings to discuss how best the matter can be handled. 

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Dr Egua says that the PTCs and NTCs can ably host both finalists and non-finalists given the fact that when the second batch of students comes, the finalists who are already there will be going for their final school practice creating room for more students.        

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