Uganda considers education a basic human right. Participating in education is also viewed as part of the solution to reducing poverty. The government is dedicated to providing equitable access to quality and affordable education to all Ugandans.
The system of education in Uganda has a structure of 7 years of primary education, 6 years of secondary education (divided into 4 years of lower secondary and 2 years of upper secondary school), and 3 to 5 years of post-secondary education. The government of Uganda recognizes education as a basic human right and continues to strive to provide free primary education to all children in the country. However, issues with funding, teacher training, rural populations, and inadequate facilities continue to hinder the progress of educational development in Uganda. Girls in Uganda are disproportionately discriminated against in terms of education; they face harsher barriers when trying to gain an education and it has left the female population disenfranchised, despite government efforts to close the gap.
The education sector in Uganda is constrained by many challenges. These include a high level of teacher and student absenteeism, weak school level management structures, inadequate availability of learning materials, and large class sizes. A major issue is also the availabilitay of teachers in disadvantaged areas and a lack of accommodation for teachers in rural, hard to reach areas.
The majority of literate Ugandans go through two basic levels of education i.e. primary and secondary schools and very few make progress to university and other tertiary institutions. For the period 1986-2004, enrolment in primary schools rose from 2,203,824 to 7,377,292 and 123,479 to 697,507 in secondary schools. Out of these students, some Ugandans had a chance to attain pre-primary (pre-school) education from 59,829(795 schools) in 2001 to 64,484 pupils in 2003(893 schools).
However, due to low response rates in the annual school census 2004, only pupils were registered from 538 schools. The gap between primary and secondary school enrolments is very big, an indication that most Ugandans stop at primary level of education since very few join post-primary institutions. For example in 2004 only 32,047 were enrolled in post-primary institutions compared to 7,377,292 and 697,507 enrolled in primary and secondary schools respectively.
Education is a crucial sector for the development of the economy as it equips Ugandans with the necessary skills and knowledge necessary for effective performance in both business and work places. Education also enhances the capacity of the recipients to confront and overcome challenges as they progress in their life journey. Education enables one to explore the new ideas that leads to development. In FY 2017/18 , the country achieved 95.9% access to education at primary level with schools being within a 5 kilometers reach to the children. The primary school enrolment stood at 10.2 million pupils.
The Education Sector in Uganda has government and private sector as the key players. The sector has both formal and non-formal educational institutions spanning all educational levels. Uganda has the following levels of education:
- Business; Technical and Vocational Education and Training (BTVET); and
- Higher Education levels.
The sector includes public, private and community Physical Education and Sports institutions.
Formal education system
Uganda has a formal education system based on a 7-4-2 formula. Formal education starts with seven years of primary education followed by four years of O Level secondary and two years of A Level secondary education. The A level secondary education is followed by a 3-5 years of University level education. This structure has been in existence since the country achieved political independence in 1962. At each level of the education system, the country produces a number of graduates but the numbers are reducing as one goes up the formal system due to a number of reasons including challenges of affordability and limited capacity intake of education establishments of higher learning.
Early Childhood Development
National Integrated Early Childhood Development Policy and Action Plan of Uganda has been developed to guide the process of developing the full potential of children from conception to 8 years of age. Therefore the parents and caregivers are expected to help the children grow and thrive physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, morally and socially.
Non-formal education system
The non-formal education system grooms people to become socially acceptable and responsible adults. The first transfer of knowledge and skills is done at home where children are taught to carry out various activities including cooking, cleanliness, building, ethics, gardening, respect for elders and discipline among others. The non-formal education is about the education, learning and training which take place outside recognized educational institutions.
The present system of education, known as Universal Primary Education (UPE), has existed since 1997, and its introduction was the result of democratisation and open elections, as there was great popular support for free education. Despite its promising boosts in enrolment, issues with funding and organisation have continued to plague the UPE. In 1999 there were six million pupils receiving primary education, compared to only two million in 1986. Numbers received a boost in 1997 when free primary education was made available to four children per family. Only some of primary school graduates go on to take any form of secondary education. This is contingent upon their passing their Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE).
Uganda is one of East Africa’s developing countries, bordered by Tanzania, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, and Kenya. It occupies 236,040 square kilometres (91,140 sq mi) and has 26,404,543 people. According to CIA World Fact Book 2004, more than 80 percent of its population is rural and 35% of the people lives below poverty line. The United Nations characterised the current condition of Uganda with its unstable government and struggling people as “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”
In 1997 the Ugandan government introduced the Universal Primary Education (UPE) program to improve enrollment and attainment in primary schools. It was initially realized to provide free education for four children per family, but the program was not performing based in its regulations due to the complex structure of Ugandan families. Most Ugandan families have more than four children and households started sending every child, which resulted in a rapid increase in student enrollment in primary schools. Due to the circumstances, President Museveni announced that the UPE was open to all children of all families (Omona 74). When the new policy was executed, schools experienced a massive influx of pupils and the demand for learning materials, teachers, and infrastructure became a challenge to the education system. Ngaka argues that the UPE resulted in costly consequences, including but not limited to a poor quality education, low pupil achievement, untrained teachers, improper infrastructures and classroom settings.
Uganda has seven years of primary education and the legal age for school entry is six. According to the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) statistics, school enrollments increased from three million to 5.3 million in 1997 and the number rapidly increased to seven million by 2004. Even though the increased number of pupils was perceived as a good thing, there were only 125,883 teachers, exceeding the UPE required pupil-teacher ratio of 1:40. The large number of pupils worsens the learning environment and it becomes harder for the teacher to be heard and teach. According to Arbeiter and Hartley, classes have between 70 and 150 pupils and there is over-age studying in all schools. Moyi explains the issue of many classes having the inappropriate age of pupils as having been driven by late enrolment or grade repetition, which in turn is caused by the poor quality of education. For instance, “third grade included pupils aged between seven to sixteen years and in sixth grade there were pupils up to nineteen years of age.”
There is a significant disparity between enrolment rates in primary and secondary schools in Uganda. Census data from 2004 indicates that for every ten students enrolled in primary schools, only one is enrolled at a secondary institution. The structure of Uganda’s secondary education system follows the education system of its former colonial masters, Britain. It is divided into the Ordinary level and Advanced level. Lower secondary consists of 4 years of schooling at the end of which students undertake Ordinary-level exams (O-level) in at least 8 subjects with a maximum of 10 subjects. Upper secondary consists of 2 years of schooling at the end of which students sit Advanced-level exams (A-level) in at least 3 subjects.
The curriculum for lower secondary is currently being reviewed by the National Curriculum Development Centre, and a new curriculum is expected to be rolled out in 2014 or 2015.
Three-year technical schools provide an alternative to lower secondary school. Alternatives for graduates from lower secondary school include: 2-3 year Technical institutes; 2 year Primary Teacher Colleges (PTC); Department Training Colleges (DTCs) and Upper secondary schools; including:
Although 60,000 to 70,000 students in Uganda leave secondary school each year qualified to go on to higher education, only some 35 per cent of them (at most 25,000) are able to find places at the limited number of institutions. The majority of students go to universities, both public and private. Makerere University in Kampala has about 95 percent of the total student population in Uganda’s universities. The remainder are distributed among the more than 20 private universities and a smaller number of non-university institutions. Recognised universities in Uganda include:
Vocational and technical education
Vocational and Technical Education is a necessary aspect of the education system in Uganda. The UN has led efforts to support this form of education through the UNESCO subdivision International Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). According to a UN report, “Uganda’s TVET mission is defined as being to ensure that individuals and enterprises acquire the skills they need to raise productivity and income.” These TVET programs range in both complexity and scope. Some provide for craftsmen or technician level training that replaces standard modes of secondary education, while some TVET programs provide graduate engineering level education to students seeking education at the tertiary or post secondary level.
10 Important Facts to know about Education in Uganda
- In 2011, Uganda joined the Global Partnership for Education, an organization that creates access to education in developing countries. Since then, the nation has launched initiatives on everything from helping girls stay in school while menstruating to guaranteeing education for refugees.
- Indeed, education is a key element in eliminating poverty in Uganda. It’s no wonder that the national adult literacy rate rose from 68.1 percent in 2002 to 73.8 percent in 2015—and the literacy rate among youth soars at 87 percent.
- Though 90 percent of children attend primary school, that drops below 25 percent in secondary school due to facility shortages. This disparity contributes to continued poverty, as those without a secondary education have lower chances of pursuing careers.
- Space is a major factor in the future of education in Uganda, especially in the face of conflict in Sudan. Uganda accommodates more than one million refugees, more than half of whom are children.
- Last year, Bidi Bidi became the world’s largest refugee settlement, with around 270,000 occupants. The people of Uganda are as passionate about keeping others safe as they are about educating them—but to excel at both, the nation must implement plans to find a balance between the two.
- Though Uganda highly values education, some internal issues have stunted its growth. Funding is a key issue. Uganda relies largely on international aid when it comes to supporting refugees’ basic needs—but, so far, the U.N. has obtained just 14 percent of the $781 million it requested to funnel into resources for Sudanese refugees, including education.
- Teacher absenteeism is another barrier to education growth in burgeoning Uganda. Due to low and delayed pay, many teachers are forced to take on additional jobs, and classrooms are often left without distinct leaders—which isn’t surprising, given that the nation’s youth outnumber its adults.
- The Ugandan government and Promoting Equality in African Schools (PEAS) are working to dismantle these inefficiencies in the education system. The groups have launched an initiative to assess and correct the quality of education and school management in 21 schools.
- The initiative plans to refine curriculum and teaching standards but first requires some basic resources—including a reliable source of electricity.
- While the steps necessary to improve education in Uganda may seem staggering, the cause looks brighter every day. Last month, a refugee solidarity summit held in Kampala garnered $358.2 million in pledges, which will provide resources for education.