Humanist school students perform well in national UCE examinations

This year’s Uganda Certificate in Education (UCE) O-level results were delayed by a month as the result of a virus attack on the Uganda National Examination Board (UNEB) central computers. A team of experts had to be brought in from South Africa to clean up the system and recover the marks of each student.

It was worth the wait for the Humanist schools. Moses Kamya, at Mustard Seed School, is ecstatic:

UCE results2We have received our UCE results and performance was even better than last year. Our students gained 2 first grades*, 10 second grades, 15 third grades, 12 fourth grades and 2 failures. They were 41 students overall. Here is a picture of the Headmistress and other staff viewing the results as soon as they were brought from UNEB. All staff agree that this was achieved by a combination of hard work by staff and students, but most importantly because of the text books and science lab equipment provided by UHST. We were ranked in the 10th position out of 38 schools in Kamuli district. This shifted us from the 17th position attained last year. Kudos to all involved.

Moses adds that:

“our two best students come from needy families. Emmanuel, our top student, hails from Karamoja sub region, where the rest of his family were killed by cattle raiders. Being an orphan and knowing that he would have to become self-reliant could have given him the impetus to work harder. But most important of all, we accommodated him in our boarding section which gave him access to text books, computers and staff in the evenings and at weekends.”

(* Only the top 8% of students in Uganda obtain first grades. To get division one, a candidate must have an aggregate of under 32 in his best eight performed subjects (Grade 1 is the top grade, so students must average Grade 4 over 8 subjects). In addition, first grade students must have a number of distinctions or credits (Grade 3 or better) together with passes in at least two sciences, English and Maths. The examination system in Uganda is much more rigorous and prescriptive than in the UK and even small errors are severely penalised (e.g. marks are lost if students give answers to 3 places of decimals, when a question asks for 2 places!)

Peter Kisirinya is equally delighted with the results at the Isaac Newton Schools:

In my own opinion, I feel great with the UCE results. We gained 4 first grades this year at Kateera Campus, Masaka; our highest ever. At Mbute Campus, Mpigi we had a candidate who narrowly missed a first grade. I am particularly delighted by the fact that none of the candidates in the two schools failed. We also registered good performances in hard subjects such as mathematics, physics, biology and chemistry. The availability of text books worked wonders and our students are now making full use of the science labs so performance on science practical papers has improved greatly.”

These results will be life changing for all students in the schools. Even the two who failed, due to particularly stressful personal circumstances, will have gained a reasonable level of basic literacy, numeracy and general education which will stand them in good stead in later life.

The best performing students will qualify to proceed to Advanced level courses. This option is open to those who have gained credits in at least three subjects, which make up a recognised combination for A-level. Students do not have the free choice of subjects common in the UK. They are constrained to choose what the authorities regard as sensible combinations e.g. Maths, Physics, Chemistry; Agriculture, Economics, Chemistry; English, Geography, History or Politics. Also, to be accepted on A-level course in Uganda all students must have passed English and Mathematics at O-level.

Those students who do not meet the requirements for A-level, but have credits in Chemistry, Biology, English and Mathematics, are eligible for technical courses and for nursing. Other students choose a variety of vocational courses which have their own specific subject requirements together with credits in Mathematics and English.

Students who do not meet any of this requirements or do not have money to pay course fees go directly into employment. Many become boda-boda (motorbike taxi) riders, get low level jobs in shops and offices, become labourers or return to work at home doing subsistence activities including farming.

UCE Results for 2013: Number of students passing at each grade

Aggregate Grade at UCE (O-level)





Students Entered

Mustard Seed School






Isaac Newton High School (Masaka)






Isaac Newton High School (Mpigi)