education in uganda
Education has an incredible impact on poverty all over the world. When ways to grow and develop become available, poverty decreases. For education in Uganda, the story is no different. While income inequality, gender disparity and regional issues come between many Ugandans and improving their lives, many have used education to push themselves into brighter futures. Through governmental improvements, private school options, and the sheer desire of the Ugandan people for education, progress is being made.

Public Education

In 1997, Uganda implemented the Universal Primary Education Policy, which waived the fees for any student attending the first seven years of school— primary 1 to primary 7. Attendance remained voluntary, and the parents still needed to provide important supplies for the students and labor to build the schoolhouses. Even so, primary school attendance increased 145% in the first six years after the policy was put in place. The program expanded to include secondary education in 2007. The increase in attendance is a testament to the desire for education in Uganda.

According to Lawrence Bategeka and Nathan Okurut— analysts in Kampala, Uganda— “The UPE programme in Uganda demonstrates that a poor country with a committed government and donor support can fight poverty through ensuring universal access to education for its citizens.” Unfortunately, the UPE had limited impact on poverty. According to John Ekaju, “this ‘UPE centric’ approach ignored the precarious situation of the large number of illiterate children, youths and adults.” He recommends that the policy be reevaluated. He predicts that improved higher education could half the poverty rates.

Secondary and Higher Education

Education in Uganda is incredibly competitive. Rigorous tests after primary school determine secondary education opportunities. Often times, this results in schools choosing the best students in order to “improve their grade average and national standing.”

While attendance has improved in Uganda’s public education, the quality of the actual education has not. Because there are more students than resources, teachers often have 100 children per class and not nearly enough materials or space. With this many students, teachers burn out quickly, and students lack the individualized instruction that has the greatest effect. This means that students who want a good education must turn to expensive private schools.

Private Education

Boarding schools and private schools offer higher quality education to the families who can afford it. These schools often have better teachers who can offer more individualized time with students. While this is a positive alternative for some families, those stuck in poverty are left on the outside.

According to Transforming Uganda, because many families live on less than $2 a day and “typical annual primary school required costs range from $50 to $150 for day schools,” many families cannot feasibly afford to send their children to these schools. According to the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights, the fees that the private schools require are “bound to result in discrimination by keeping more children out of school, particularly those from low income households.”

Though improvement has begun, Uganda’s educational fight is far from over. In order to close the gap, better education and more opportunities need to arise. As the education in Uganda improves, poverty will decrease and more people will feel empowered to take control of their futures.

– Abigail Lawrence
Photo: Flickr

Eight Facts About Education in Uganda

Uganda has seen significant improvements in enrollment of children in primary school over the years. As one of the youngest countries in the world with one of the fastest-growing populations, the country must work even harder to continuously improve education as a means to ensure the productivity of its increasing youth population and help reduce poverty levels. Below are eight facts about education in Uganda that show where the country stands and what more it can do to improve.

8 Facts About Education in Uganda

  1. Uganda’s Education System: The first of the eight facts about education in Uganda is that the country organizes its education into three different school levels, totaling seven years. These include primary school followed by secondary school, which is sectioned into two levels – the first lasting four years, followed by another two years. Finally, people attend post-secondary education, which lasts from three to five years.
  2. Universal Primary Education (UPE): In 1997, the Ugandan government introduced Universal Primary Education (UPE). This means that the government pays the tuition fees of all orphans in the country as well as the fees of up to four children per family. After the introduction of UPE, the number of students tripled between 1997 and 2014, from 2.63 million children to more than 7.6 million children. In 2007, the government rolled out a Universal Secondary Education (USE) program to help children continue their education.
  3. Uganda’s Literacy Rate: Estimates determined that the literacy rate in Uganda was 78.4 percent in 2015 with 85.3 percent of males being literate and 71.5 percent of females being literate. One can explain the lower rate of female literacy by the fact that about 52 percent of girls drop out at the primary school level either because of pregnancy or marriage. Local organizations, including GirlUp Initiative Uganda, are playing an important role in ensuring that girls get a chance to receive an education.
  4. School Completion Rates: While the enrollment rates of students shot up after the introduction of UPE, the number of students completing school is not as high. Only one in four students who start primary school make it to secondary school. Some factors that explain these high dropout rates include lack of school fees and money to buy important materials like uniforms, stationery and textbooks, violence in the form of caning and other corporal punishments and sexual abuse, with almost 24 percent of students experiencing sexual abuse in school.
  5. Disabled Children: Children with disabilities often receive neglect when it comes to education in Uganda. According to UNICEF, only 9 percent of children with disabilities enrolled in school from the pre-primary to secondary level. The exclusion of these children from formal schools could be because of the lack of accessible facilities as well as a shortage of special needs teachers. Organizations such as Cheshire Services Uganda are working at bridging the learning gap for students with disabilities.
  6. Teacher Absenteeism: Teacher absenteeism is high. About 60 percent of teachers in nearly half of Uganda’s public schools are not in class when they need to be. This is because of poor, inadequate facilities and overworked and demotivated teachers. Classrooms in Uganda often have up to 100 students.
  7. Uganda’s Education Investments: Education expenditure as a share of the national budget in Uganda is around 10 percent. This is significantly lower than the average for Sub-Saharan Africa, which is 16 percent. By increasing its investment in education, the government can improve the productivity of its citizens and help lower the poverty levels in the country.
  8. Improving Ugandan Education: Several organizations are working with the government to improve education in Uganda. Examples include USAID, UNICEF and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). Organizations like these are working to enforce gender equity in schools, improve access and completion rates at the various levels of learning, increase literacy and improve early childhood development and adolescent development. The government also builds 15,000 primary school classrooms each year to accommodate any additional students.

These eight facts about education in Uganda highlight the urgent need to ensure that education in Uganda continues to improve in terms of both quality and access. The government’s and other humanitarian organizations’ efforts will help Uganda reduce poverty as well as significantly improve the lives of its citizens.

Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Wikimedia Commons