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Celebrating Little Wins from Our First PLE Results in 2024

As the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc globally and schools across Uganda remained closed rural children found themselves deprived of virtual learning opportunities for over two years. Consequently, upon the reopening of schools in 2022, these children faced the arduous task of commencing their education anew. For us, this adversity served as a catalyst to pioneer enhanced learning prospects for village children, surpassing the normative offerings of underfunded public schools where quality often takes a backseat.

Thus, the inception of Okere Community School emerged, welcoming an initial cohort of 50 pupils in the primary section ranging from P.1 to P.3. Progressively, in 2023, we expanded to include P.5, P.6, and P.7.

In 2023, 17 pupils constituted our first P.7 cohort, and became candidates for the Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE). Among them, 7 were boys and 10 were girls, with 12 pupils embarking on a second attempt at the PLE after their initial 2022 endeavor fell short of the requisite scores for high school progression. The average age of our first P.7 class stood at 16 years, a deviation from the national average of 13 years.

Upon the release of the UNEB results on January 24, 2024, we eagerly anticipated celebrating the achievements of our students, initially projecting stellar performances. Regrettably, the received SMS messages of the results bore disappointing news. Even our most promising student, whom we anticipated to secure a first-grade accolade, garnered 18 aggregates, still becoming our highest achiever. This outcome left our management disheartened, having invested extensive efforts in nurturing these students, who initially lacked proficiency in English literacy and comprehension.

To address the educational gaps exacerbated by the pandemic, our dedicated teachers employed rigorous teaching methodologies, including weekend sessions and revisiting both P.5, P.6 P.7 syllabuses to ensure comprehensive coverage. Despite the challenges, our perseverance yielded promising outcomes.

Upon scrutinizing the results, a sensible pattern started to emerge: all our students attained second and third grades, with none failing any subject. Remarkably, the 12 students undertaking a PLE retake secured second grades, marking a significant improvement from their previous fourth-grade standings. “But even this wasn’t enough to put any smile on our faces as the management team. I saw the head teacher crying with tears like a baby and I had to console and comfort him”, said Min Ker our co-founder and Chief Operating Officer. The headteacher had pledged to the parents that we would get some first grades, so he was afraid that his promise couldn’t now be fulfilled.

As Min Ker sat with the headteacher comforting him, one parent after another started coming to Okere City. They were dancing and ululating.  A few had chickens in their hands to give thanks to the headteacher and all the teachers for their effort and hard work which ensured the “success” of their children. That’s when we understood that our definition and understanding of success as a project was quite different from what the community understood and expected. See, most of them just dreamt of their children getting the required grades to be able to proceed to high school, and using this yardstick, who had excelled. Secondly, parents in the village were used to their children attaining third and fourth grades all the time. They didn’t expect any better. But here were, 10 of our children had scored second grade, with 7 in third grade.

For context, because we didn’t have an approved UNEB Center Number yet, we sent our children to sit their exams from the neighboring government school. Unbelievably, all the best 15 children were from our community school. In the public school where they sat their exams which had a total number of 50 pupils, just one attained a second grade. In fact, in terms of statistics of the passing rate visa' vie the number of students who sat PLE per school, our school has the best results in the district.

We know we have a lot of work to do to ensure that we become one of the leading educational hubs for marginalized children in northern Uganda. And the result from our first PLE cohort has only reinforced our ambition for the future.

You can read about all our inaugural P.7 candidates and their scores here.

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