Uganda Education

Education in Uganda is taken seriously with the government believing that a well educated population can help Uganda move forward, however being a poor country there is inevitably under-investment in the education sector. Despite this, the country still invests some 18.29% of all expenditure on education, ranking Uganda in 17th place in the world out of 103 countries who provide such data. Education, which is only compulsory for seven years (6-12yrs old) is run by Uganda's Ministry of Education and Sports. Their mission statement is "to provide for, support, guide, coordinate, regulate and promote quality education and sports to all persons in Uganda for national integration, individual and national development."

In reality many poorer communities do not even have schools and those that do exist are managed by the state and supplemented by church and NGO providers as well as private schools for better off families.

Before exploring education in Uganda in further detail, its important to provide a context for children's education in Uganda. Outside of urban areas most children in Uganda live within families that rely on subsistence farming to survive in mud built huts with no electricity nor running water and where food production and wood gathering for fire takes priority. It gets light at around 6am and darkness falls at about 7pm meaning that homework is not achievable in the dark. Before school most children may have walked many miles to collect water in plastic cans and/or have scavenged for wood to light the evening fire. As such,  many are already tired and hungry before the school day commences. One child staff at recently worked with in Uganda was so sore from carrying wood that he could barely hold a pencil in his hands.

There are also many AIDS orphans in Uganda meaning that already large families are further willingly "burdened" by coping with other family children, often nieces or nephews, and when children become ill carers are reluctant to seek medical treatment which whilst free, a visit to the 'local' hospital which would be many miles walk away, is culturally associated with dying so treatment is often not sought.


Uganda Education

Uganda Education

Uganda Education

Uganda Education


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Uganda Education

It is also not uncommon place for children to move between family members who are better able to provide for them, causing disruption in their education at regular intervals.

School ethos is basic with many teachers ill-equipped nor knowledgeable to teach in the classroom. A monthly wage of £40 in non-state schools is normal although in state schools this is much higher. As such many teachers are very young and unqualified, often 20-23yrs old, who take up teaching because its available rather than because its a vocation. This is reflected in the school motto of a municipal school in the south-west town of Mbarara "Sweat for thy bread" ~ meaning that both the staff and children must work for what they get. "He who does not work should not eat." Due to a lack of awareness by staff, for example, one 15yr old student at a rural school knew all about the issues in Syria and Libya yet didn't know the UK and USA were two separate countries with an ocean between them, had no idea what an airplane looked like and was being taught the the UK was going to steal recently discovered Ugandan oil.

The school year starts at the end of January although this has been put back to early February as the government realised that many families had not received January's pay to help the children get equipped for the new school year. There are three terms with the main break running during December and January.

Some children attend nursery school from the age of three, however most children in Uganda start their education at the age of five or six in primary education which lasts for for seven years from Primary 1 to Primary 7. Many children start late, drop out or fail their end of year exams preventing progression ~ only 56% of children complete their primary education in Uganda. As such, many primary school classrooms which can cater for an average of 49.93 pupils will normally have children of variable ages in them. Many rural schools don't have access to electricity and classrooms have no glass windows and are built with tin roofs meaning that during the heavy daily rain that lasts for an hour or so, pupils are likely to get wet and teachers struggle to be heard as the rain pummels against the echoing roof.

At the end of Primary 7, children will take their PLE exams (Primary Leaving Exams) which informs their future educational path. The boy referred to above who was often too sore to hold a pencil recently undertook these exams scoring a 6 aggregate (English-D1; mathematics-D1; science-D2 and social studies-D2) just short of the best possible achievable mark of Aggregate 4 and well above the worst result of Aggregate 36. And this from a 13yr old teenager who was an orphan, shared a bed with his 20yr old cousin and lived in a home with no electric or water with a family income of just £10 a month for five of them after bills. Quite an achievement or, as he emailed on getting his results "Nice day".

Those who can progress to senior school having passed their PLEs do not do so as they have competing demands to work within the family with many additionally seeing further education futile as there are no jobs in any event. In fact a lowly 12% progress from primary into senior education (128th place out of 135 countries where data is available.)

Senior education in Uganda is split into two stages; lower secondary of four years at the end of which students sit their Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) exams, better known locally as O-level examinations, and Upper Secondary of two further years ending with Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE) in three subjects, again, commonly called A-Levels. (Some of a less educational inclination will attend technical colleges instead of lower secondary.)

Tertiary education is available for those who pass their A-levels and normally means university or other institutions that offer certificates and awards. Only around 3% of students progress to tertiary education, not least because of its costs and the fact that in the country itself there are only about 25,000 places available for  65,000 qualified children ~ leaving wealthier families with the only option of sending their children abroad.

The primary curriculum which was initially established by the British in the early 20th Century was geared towards equipping students with the theoretical knowledge to help run the colony but has recently been revamped to concentrate on seven major 'themes': social studies, science, languages, maths, creative arts, technology and enterprise and lastly life education. The latter being introduced to equip Uganda's children with the necessary life skills to survive in a world where for many if not most theoretical concepts are meaningless when you have to grow your own food and be a valued member of your village community to survive.

One of the problems with Uganda education is what exactly do you do with it. Older students leave university and can't find jobs so children in local areas can do very little with their education. As one 12yr old, who went for a meal at a 'resort' with a member of staff at commented as he looked at the items on the table ranging from ketchup to plates ~ they were all made in Kenya or China ~ "we make nothing here, there are no jobs." Indeed Uganda has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world running at 80%.


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