The proportion of children attending school in Uganda is increasing, however they are not all receiving a quality education. Among the biggest factors contributing to this is the high rate of teacher absenteeism.
Evidence shows that 20 to 30% of teachers can be absent at any one time with one school reporting a teacher absence rate of 62%. This leads of a child absence rate of 27% across Uganda.
Piloted in 5 schools in the Luwero district, the SMS system provides school management bodies with information about teacher absenteeism, allowing them to address the problem.
Plan International worked together with student councils to introduce mobile phone reporting to monitor teacher and student attendance. Each school received 2 phones capable of sending free SMS reports on missing teachers to district education authorities. A website and connected database supported the collection and analysis of data.
Once notified about the absenteeism of teachers, authorities contact the individual in question, who then have to provide a reason for their absence.
Results of the project, which has now been running for 2 and a half years, show that it has greatly improved both pupil and teacher absence rates. Teacher absenteeism has been almost eliminated, while pupil absenteeism has been reduced by almost 80% in the schools taking part in the project.
Improving pupil performance
In turn, pupil performance has improved. Rev Besweri Mulyanti, head teacher of Kiziba Primary School, says, "There has been improved performance. We got 7 first grades in both years."
The project has also been used to inform parents of pupil absences, parents’ meetings and important school messages.
Margaret Natseli from Plan International Uganda says, “Introducing the system was not without challenges. There were many questions about whether children would be able to send messages and if there would be misuse of the system. Children, on the whole, have been very responsible in the use of the system.”
Plan International and government authorities are working in partnership to look at scaling up the project to help provide quality education to children across Uganda, thus allowing them the opportunity to reach their potential.