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QUICK FACTS: Republic of Uganda

• Uganda is a landlocked country in East Africa.  It is surrounded by Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda

• Gained Independence from Britain: October 9, 1962

• The most ethnically diverse nation in the world.  Uganda is home to 56 tribes and 9 indigenous communities, all of which have their own languages, cultures and customs 

• Climate: Tropical

• Named "The Pearl of Africa" by Winston Churchill because of its magnificent beauty

• Youngest country in the world, with over 50% of the population being under age 14

• Official Language: English, Swahili (Luganda is also spoken widely)

• Population: 42 Million 

• Average Life Expectancy: 59 yrs

• Literacy Rate: 73.9

• Primary School Net Enrollment Rate: 91%

•Primary Completion rate: 53%

• Secondary Enrollment Rate: 34%

• Currency: Ugandan Shilling (UGX)


• Source of the Nile River is located in Jinja, Uganda


• Home to the largest lake in Africa, Lake Victoria  

• Official Symbol: Crane

Access to education in Uganda is a great challenge for many. Though in recent years literacy rates have improved, there still remains profound problems when it comes to the education system. Numerous issues and obstacles prevent hundreds of thousands of children from going to school each year in Uganda, the number one cause being: the inability to afford school fees.

Hi: Ki Kati             (CHI-kati)                    

Okay: Kale            (Ka-lay)

Good morning Wasuze Otya nyo? (Wa-suh-zotiya nyo)

Good evening:     Sula Bulungi (soo-la buh-lun-gee)

Sir: Sebo               (Seh-bow)

Madam: Nyabo     (nnn-yabbo)

No thanks: Nedda              (ne-da)

I don't know: Simanyi         (sih-mon-yee)

Understand?  Otegeera        (Oh-te-gara)

I like: Njagala           (nnn-jaag-uh-luh)

I love you: Nkwagala    (nnn-kwag-uh-luh)


Learn Luganda!

In 1997, the Ugandan government introduced Universal Primary Education (the idea that all children should be able to attend primary school for free). And in 2007, after a UN report stated that Africa had the worst secondary school enrollment rates in the world, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni introduced Universal Secondary Education. Though this seemed like progress and enrollment rates did improve, the quality of education in Uganda greatly suffered. 


Though "Universal Education" makes it sound as though attending school would be completely free, the title is misleading. What it actually means, is that the Ugandan government pays schools an annual grant for a chosen amount per student.  That doesn't necessarily mean that amount covers what the schools choose to charge students in tuition.  In many cases, students are still required to pay hefty fees (anywhere from 200,000 - 800,000 shillings per term {$60-$240 USD}),which most families cannot afford.


Even if families can somehow find a way to cover the fees, or they are lucky to find a school which doesn't charge additional, in Uganda it is the student's responsibility to show up each term with specific requirements.  And as most children in Uganda attend boarding schools (for numerous reasons - there being a limited number of schools and students living so far from most, being orphans, the family unable to provide for them at home, etc.), the requirements prove to be quite costly.  They are expected to pay for and bring school uniform, recreational wear, cleaning supplies, their own plates and cups, reams of paper, soap, toilet paper, toothbrushes, etc., and often the total of these items can be too costly for families to afford.  Students are often sent back home if they don't arrive with every single requirement, and are forced to wait until they can return with them or the money.  Many students never return. 


With the rising of enrollment rates, there is a lack of teaching space, supplies, and demotivated, over-worked teachers heading classes, which has resulted in a lesser quality education and large class size, sometimes as large as a 400:1 student to teacher ratio.  A 2010 Overseas Development Institute report acknowledged that although there may be increased access, that education standards have not improved.  So for those who desire a quality education, the only real option is private school.  And for most people, that is simply out of the question, due to the school fees associated with such institutions. 


There are a handful of beautiful private schools in Uganda that offer a superb education. Unfortunately, the children that attend these institutions are the children of Expats and the wealthiest Ugandans.  The everyday Ugandan child only has the option of underfunded, overcrowded, understaffed, poorly equipped and often unsanitary, schools that offer a much lower standard of education.  It is our goal to change this.  To give the everyday Ugandan child the opportunity to go to the kind of school they had only dreamed of. 


Testing & Curriculum

In the last few decades, almost all Sub-Saharan African countries have been involved in education reforms, particularly in development of new curricula.


In Uganda, the Secondary Curriculum was updated last in 2012 after employers and universities complained that though students had "passed" exams to enter college or class, or were "qualified" for a job, they lacked necessary reading, writing, speaking and problem-solving skills.  It was determined that the old curriculum's main emphasis was on students gaining large amounts of knowledge to pass exams in many subjects, but with few skills needed for future jobs.

With the new curriculum, earth sciences and ICT (information and communication technology) were added, in hopes of better preparing youth for jobs in science and tech. There is also a new focus on critical thinking, problem solving and communication skills. 

However, the Secondary Curriculum is still with its flaws. Students are overloaded with coursework, too many subjects, and rather than helping students gain a better understanding of material they have trouble with, they are told to avoid that subject completely. Students take 8-10 courses per term, and when they are tested in every subject in S4 as part of the National Exams, they are then given a curriculum for their final two years based on the results: areas they pass, they take; areas where they fail, they do not take again.  So if a student failed biology and chemistry, they no longer take science courses for the rest of their Secondary career.  They will instead take a different course "specialty" like "Math, English, Art". 

Testing is relentless for students.  Every term students are required to take exams as well as ongoing assessments of their performance; based on their results they are given a grade and a position in their class. If the child is successful, they can move in to the next school year in the New Year. However, if their performance is poor, they may have to repeat the school year again.

Uganda's Education System

The Ugandan school year begins in February and finishes in December.


Term One: February - April

Term Two: May - August

Term Three: September - December


Primary School is for 7 years:

P1 - P7

Secondary School: 6 years 

S1 - S6

The three most important school years for a Ugandan student are:

  • Primary 7: All students must take leaving exams which will determine which secondary school they go to.

  • Senior 4: O-Level National Exam year.

  • Senior 6: A-Level National Exam year.

All schools in Uganda charge tuition fees.  It is very different from America where taxes pay for education and children attend schools in their district or area. 

Children often attend schools that are many hours from their homes.  It's often a matter of what schools have openings, who knows someone and if they can afford the tuition fees. 

Children have the choice between boarding and day school.  Children often prefer to go to boarding school, as there is more stability - they do not need to struggle for meals like they must do at home.

There is no set age to begin schooling in Uganda.  Because enrolling is often determined by a family's capability to pay the associated fees, many children have to hold off until they are older, or many begin, but are "chased" home if their family cannot pay the fees.  They then sit home for weeks, months, years... until their family can come up with the money.  Some never return.

Many children drop out to work small jobs in hopes of raising the money.  Some go back for a short time, then get chased again. Others get stuck trying to help their families survive and are trapped in that existence and never re-enroll. 

Because of all of these factors, most children drop in and out of school throughout the years, which leads to classes having a wide variety of ages. A stark contrast to America, where students are within a year or two of their classmates ages. This makes it difficult for most students to keep up, or truly retain anything from lessons. There is a major lack of consistency. This also creates problems for teachers - trying to teach one lesson to a variety of ages and comprehension levels. 

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