An application process that came in handy for top secondary schools during the Covid-19 lockdown has continued to be of great utility more than a year after Uganda fully reopened her economy.Schools such as King’s College Budo, Gayaza High School, Trinity College Nabingo, Mbarara High School, Namilyango College, and Mt St Mary’s College Namagunga, among others, realised a way to advertise students for Senior One ahead of the national selection. The placement process was duly termed as Compassionate Admissions.
The portalThe open online admission call was mainly targeted at learners interested in joining prestigious schools that they initially did not select as a first choice. Ms Annie Wandyaka, a dean at Mengo SS, told this publication that the online portal has triggered “an increase in enrollment … with 90 percent participation as opposed to the 20 percent participation from the national selection process.”Mr James Odongo, the head teacher at Mbarara High School, told us that the platform “is operational as it made the school visible.”
“It is mostly favourable for students who are sponsored by the government and are IT compliant,” he said.While some schools enrolled students online, others such as Gayaza High School and Mt St Mary’s Namagunga charged a non-refundable fee to applicants. Sr Regina Nabwanuka, the head teacher of Mt St Mary’s Namagunga, said this payment takes care of administrative needs.“We charged applicants a non-refundable fee of Shs50,000, which catered for the stationery, feeding and facilitation of the team that handled the online submissions,” she explained.
While the online application served its purpose of preventing long queues at the school, Ms Nabwanuka shared the constraints that came out from the online exercise.“We had people sending in multiple applications and some underlooked our directive of seven for cut-off points as we had those with 14 points applying too,” she said.Mr Perez Katabarwa, the director of studies at Trinity College Nabbingo, also admitted the applicants’ failure to comply with school terms while submitting online applications.He said: “We had a transparent online exercise at 50 percent participation with clear terms for applicants given that we admit on merit for those who gave us their first choice. One also ought to be within our range of cut-off points.”
The national processAll learning institutions across the region are mandated to go through a national selection process. The process was put in place to ensure that students join government schools on merit. Ms Wandyaka commended the role of government in the selection process, stating that it is considerate of all groups and more interactive.
“The government exercise is a fair platform for the parents who are middle income earners and computer illiterates. This gives them a fair chance to physically interact with school authorities and not miss out on admissions,” she stated.Ms Ketty Lamaro, the Permanent Secretary at the Education ministry, said the national selection process “provides us with actual numbers of learners for appropriate allocation of resource allocation among institutions and also helps track their learning cycle of school drop outs and those on facilitated grants.”Ms Lamaro also adds that the system is learner-focused since it puts its fingers on the pulse of the approach schools warm up to. It is estimated that 300 schools took part in this year’s selection process that ended yesterday.
Mr Katabarwa said the national selection process is a priority and works concurrently with the online admissions. “After establishing a figure here, for instance 180 students from the process, we are able to go on ground and consider more numbers, by say 200 students in addition to those online.”Citing its progress by 70 percent, Mr Odongo said the normal selection process helps schools access direct communication with the government.“When we converge here, we are able to receive guidelines from the ministry in terms of opening, schedules of school activities for the year, as well as ministerial statements for key stakeholders.”