University of Tasmania
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Teacher engagement and retention in rural public secondary schools in Uganda

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posted on 2023-05-28, 12:10 authored by Gilbert ArinaitweGilbert Arinaitwe
Teacher turnover is persistently an international concern for policy makers, schools and communities. Globally, teacher turnover is seen more often in schools located within low socio-economic status populations, remote or rural areas and for subject specialties including science and mathematics. Teacher turnover imposes costs on education systems and disrupts continuity of students' learning experience. While the research has been mostly conducted in Western countries, it raises the question of whether teacher retention may be understood differently in non-Western countries where the issue had been neglected. The study explored two research questions: ‚Äö Why do some teachers stay while others leave Ugandan rural public secondary schools? ‚Äö How does school and community engagement influence teacher retention in Ugandan rural public secondary schools? The study design was an embedded-single case of rural public secondary school teacher retention in two 'hard to reach' districts. The study began with a reconnaissance and mapping exercise of 22 schools, followed by intensive study of four schools and finally looked beyond these schools to a further two schools for trustworthiness of the findings. Interviews were conducted involving teachers, headteachers, and community members, selected using a combination of purposeful and opportunistic sampling techniques. The data were analysed using an iterative thematic approach. Findings show that reasons behind teacher retention are multi-factored and interrelated. Major factors were that teachers perceive rural postings as a 'golden ticket' for securing and maintaining a desired Government job; teachers desired rural schools with suitable location amenities, proximity to large urban centres and school pay to supplement what they received from Government; and teachers' desire to return to home community. Findings further show that a rural teacher's engagement extends beyond school to community and this relationship is reciprocated by the wider community's willingness to integrate teachers into community. Rural opportunities also allow for extra income to compensate for low wages, encouraging teachers to stay. 'Unexpected' findings include attraction and retention of low-quality teachers who in turn impacted negatively on rural school students' performance. Schools reciprocated local community financial support by recruiting teachers recommended by, or who fit sociocultural values of, local community and later recommended these teachers to Ministry of Education for Government employment. A pattern of a homogenous staff of shared identity emerged as an unintended consequence of the disconnect of local practice from Government policies. This research contributes to previously limited research on teacher retention in non-Western countries and provides unique insights into staffing in Ugandan rural schools and therefore may be useful to African-country policymakers, schools and rural communities.


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