How Ugandan rural school authorities interpret and adapt government policy to recruit and retain teachers

Year: 2019

Author: Arinaitwe, Gilbert, Kilpatrick, Sue, Williamson, John, Mainsbridge, Casey

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In 2007, Uganda began a nationwide Universal Secondary Education (USE) programme with a stated commitment to ‘free education’; however, it also permitted schools to receive voluntary contributions from parents in ‘any urgent matter’. In doing so, schools were prohibited from denying students access to education for parent’s failure to make any contribution.

This presentation shows whereas the Government provided a legitimate route for schools to adapt the policy, it simultaneously continued to underfund schools and did not appoint enough teachers for USE schools. Accordingly, schools began to levy fees from parents to cover school needs unfulfilled by Government funding. This allowed for policy interpretation at the local level to circumvent or compensate for central government level funding shortfalls.

To date, research in Uganda is scant on tensions between the official policy and the negotiations of policy in the daily life of rural schools. This study, therefore, explored how rural schools negotiate the USE prohibitions to circumvent and address rural school teacher recruitment and retention. This presentation examines the myriad ways in which schools are coping with policy enactments and raising funds to attract and retain teachers. We show how local school authorities handle parents who default on obligations that circumvent policy without informing central government authorities. We conclude by presenting the implications of these policy circumvention practices on Uganda teacher retention practices.

This qualitative study involved a critical analysis of policy documents followed by data gathering from semi-structured interviews with 31 key stakeholders from four rural public secondary schools. Data were analysed thematically using a combination of deductive and inductive techniques, with the assistance of NVivo 11.

This study contributes to knowledge of factors affecting rural teacher retention, the ways schools navigate and utilise practical strategies to remunerate and incentivise teachers and provides significant insights showing hybrid public school funding. A contribution is made to a broader understanding of local school experiences. Findings can inform policymakers and school foundation bodies to ensure policies align with practical realities in local school contexts. This is particularly timely as teacher retention is a neglected issue in Africa, a possible future domain of more research. Policy needs to align with practical strategies in rural contexts.