Education in Uganda


The effect of the virus in Uganda was significant with schools across the nation being directed to close in mid-March 2020 and not fully re-opening again until 10th January 2022. The very poor rural schools, the ones we target to assist, found it impossible to operate with no access to the internet, no zoom facilities, and thus many pupils missed two years of their education. It has already been noticed, with the results of the Primary Leaving Exams taken in November 2022. where lots of pupils have failed due to a lack of education in the two previous years. Thus they now leave school with nothing. The effect of Covid-19 for all Ugandan schools will be felt for years to come.

February 2023

Uganda in 2020 is a poor country but very much developing and still trying to move forward after its recent history following the devastating dictatorships of Milton Obote and Idi Amin in the 1960s and 1970s. The disruption continued until 1986 when Yoweri Museveni took control of a distraught and bankrupt country. His government has restored peace but rebuilding Uganda's shattered infrastructure is proving a long and difficult task.  In February 2011 Museveni was returned to power for 5 years.  On the 22nd February 2011, The New Vision, Uganda’s leading website, wrote “Museveni’s education manifesto was the magic bullet to victory”. In 2020, with over 30 years in power, President Museveni continues to try and improve his nation’s educational systems. It is a hard struggle and still needs assistance from charities such as HvSMF. Another presidential election is due to take place in early 2021. Education not only provides basic literacy and numeracy, it gives a chance for children to escape the poverty into which they were born.

Education is the key to social and economic development. Educated children can access jobs so are not reliant upon unprofitable subsistence farming. Only through education can social problems such as AIDS, alcohol abuse, sexual inequality, and teenage marriages be tackled.

‘The only chance the children who attend my school have to lift themselves out of poverty is by getting an education’ - Robert Mukisa – head teacher Bupadhengo Secondary School.

We depart, or 'branch' as the Ugandans would say, from the towns and main roads into isolated rural areas. Around 70% of Uganda’s population live in rural areas, where the majority of the population live as subsistence farmers. Both poverty and educational standards are at their worst in these communities. We target our investment here so as to help the most vulnerable and needy children.

Nursery School Education was formally recognised within the Ugandan educational system in 2007. The government sees early schooling as the stepping stone to sensitising parents and young children to schooling. Although a bold and progressive initiative, government funding is minimal and HvSMF is trying to assist with a programme of establishing nursery school buildings, within each of their supported primary school compounds.

Free Universal Primary Education (UPE), was introduced in 1997 by the Ugandan government. The result being the percentage of children attending primary school rose from 35% to over 95% in less than three decades. The governments UPE pays teachers’ wages but its resources are limited so funds for other schools’ structural needs, and educational resources, are lacking. The result is that schools find it impossible to raise sufficient funds to build a classroom, purchase desks or supply each school with reference or textbooks. Many children therefore have their lessons sitting on the ground under the shade of trees and, if it rains, they have to go home. This is the raison d’etre of The Henry van Straubenzee Memorial Fund.  With your help we can ensure these children have their lessons sitting at a desk in a classroom.

Free Universal Secondary Education, (USE), was introduced in 2007 for those children who obtain the equivalent of a grade C or above at the end of 7 years in primary school. This has led to a 35% increase in the number of children attending secondary school. However, a shortage of government funding for building work means most schools lack the basic infrastructure necessary to educate the rising enrolment to a good standard. Although there has been a significant increase in the number of students attending secondary school, currently only 21% of pupils complete secondary education – Uganda desperately needs more affordable secondary schools.

Government Grant Aid - With this in mind, during 2014, the government started to increase the number of government supported and funded secondary schools across the country. The method they used was to invite and grant additional secondary schools that were established by organisations, such as church schools from all denominations, the community or charities. This policy is known as Government Grant Aid (GGA). Grant aid is for the provision of teachers’ wages and students capitation grants but does not include development of infrastructure. In 2014 there were approximated 1250 government secondary schools in Uganda. 900 were not part of the GGA schools. In order to apply for GGA each school needs a strong politician in the local area with big influence as politics plays a big role in resource distribution and allocation.

In July 2017 Kifuyo Secondary school, in the very poor Namayingo district became part of the GGA scheme. The government is slowly (100 schools per annum) rolling out a scheme to take over one government school in each subcounty, as recommended by the subcounty local government. In July 2023 Bupadhengo and Nalango Secondary schools, both in Kamuli district, joined the scheme after their head teachers had spent approx. £88,000 over ten years of the schools’/their own money in order to secure this status. They now have peace of mind that the future of their schools is secured through sustainable funding from the government.

A typical rural school:

There are over 7.5 million children attending rural schools in Uganda. The vast majority of these schools offer a poor standard of education.
Many children have lessons outside, seated on the dirty ground under the shade of trees, as their only shelter from the sun and rain, due to the shortage of classrooms. If rain is approaching, many teachers will stop their classes and send them home for the day!

Children who do have a classroom are often in classes of over 150. But, due to lack of desks, children are forced to sit on the dirt floors or, pathetically, a brick. A shortage of latrines and handwashing facilities leads to poor personal hygiene and disease. Most schools have very few textbooks and rarely any sports, music or science equipment.
Poor staff accommodation in rural schools makes it hard for schools to attract and retain good quality teachers. Many staff members walk or cycle up to 8km each day to teach. In bad weather with bad roads, they frequently never reach their schools to teach.

Existing buildings are often in poor repair or sometimes even dangerous. The poor conditions mean that frequently the local community do not support their school. Many parents don’t take their children’s education seriously and, in some cases, don't send their children to school.

Schools are struggling to cope with a rapidly increasing population, which is forecast to double in size in the next 20 years:

UGANDA / UK – FACTS AND FIGURES: Uganda United Kingdom
Population WHO 2016 41.5 Million 65.4 Million
Life expectancy WHO 2018 63 years 81 years
GNP (now known as GNI) per capita 2018 $620 $45,390
Annual population growth 2018 3.7% 0.6%
Average number of children per mother. 2017 5.1 1.7
Adult Literacy Rate 2018 76% 98%
% population using sanitary facilities that meet UN minimum standards 79% 100%
% adult population living with HIV/AIDS 7% 0.2%
Number of orphaned children having lost both parents to HIV / AIDS 1.6 Million 0
% of population who are subsistence farmers 2019 68% 0%

Final Word:

Uganda is now a peaceful stable country and, more recently, has reduced the devastating effect of AIDS from 25% of the population to less than 7%. Healthcare has also improved significantly. This has had the effect of causing the population to grow at an alarming rate. Education is vital so that today’s children can learn new skills and not rely on simple, unsustainable subsistence farming.

Many children have lessons outside, Seated on the dirty ground under the shade of trees

Due to lack of desks, children are forced to sit on dirt floo, or pathetically, a brick!

Existing structures are often in poor repair, and sometimes even dangerous

Children who do have a classroom are often in classes of over 150

How we have made a difference

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