Effects of short-term hunger on schooling among universal primary schools in Kamuli and Soroti districts, Uganda

Universal Primary Education (UPE) was introduced in Uganda in 1997 as a landmark ahead of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) No.2 agenda whose target was of ensuring that all children, both boys and girls, complete primary education by 2015. During the implementation stage, the Government of Uganda realized that parents were not willing to contribute any fees partly because of many other demands they had to shoulder, so the government did not only scrape parents’ contributions but also went ahead and banned all other forms of fees (including lunch), further complicating the running of UPE. This led to pupils suffering from short term hunger while at school. It is against this background that this research was carried out to find out the effects of short term hunger on schooling among universal primary schools in Kamuli and Soroti districts. A survey was carried out and a total of 320 pupils participated, equal numbers coming from 8 schools from both Kamuli and Soroti. Descriptive statistics were computed to characterize the feeding patterns, Content analysis was done to describe the perceived effects of short-term hunger and the strategies used by pupils to cope with the same, and a correlation was run to determine the influence of the perceived effects of short term hunger on pupils’ attendance, learning and concentration. Results showed that although 75% of the schools had a school feeding program, 72% of the parents could not afford to contribute towards it, so their children did not have a meal at school. Only 7% participated in the program in Soroti and 46% participated in Kamuli, leading to 58.8% of the pupils going hungry throughout lunch time. Pupils’ devised their own means of coping with hunger which included looking for fruits (28%), begging from friends (18.5%), escaping from school (9%). This affected students’: learning unaffected, since 42% of the pupils lost concentration; 41% did not understand what the teacher taught; and, 32% dosed in class in the afternoon. This led to low average mark at the end of the term. All scored an average mark less than 40% which is the UNEB pass mark. A Correlation run showed a significant relationship between pupils’ attendance to school both in the morning and in the afternoon, their concentration levels in the afternoon, and their average mark at the end of the term. It was concluded that hunger affects pupils’ learning hence their average mark at the end of the term, therefore impeding the sole purpose for which UPE was established.
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Florence Birungi Kyazze and Paul Kibwika, Department of Extension and Innovation Studies, College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Makerere University
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