Education is Transforming Uganda

In order to understand the context in which the small but growing number of Humanist Schools in Uganda are working, we need an overview of the education system. The most reliable source of information is the National Census of 2014, the results of which were published in 2017. The broad picture will not have changed substantially since then.

Educating the new generation

With historic fertility rates as high as 7 children per woman, the school-age population in Uganda has been growing apace. In the year 2000, realising that it would not be able to meet the demand for new schools, the Uganda government liberalised the school system allowing a variety of private and community organisations to set up schools. Religious organisations were quick to see an opportunity to extend their influence over Ugandan society. New schools were established by the protestant Church of Uganda, the Catholic Church, Evangelical Protestant Churches (supported largely by American congregations) and by different Moslem groups, who provide 10-15% of religious schools.

Sector Primary (%) Secondary (%)
Religious organisations*

57

41

Entrepreneurs*

18

30

Community groups*

13

16

Government schools

5

6

Others*

7

7

TOTAL SCHOOLS

20,310

3000

*Many schools receive some government support.
Source Uganda Census 2014 (Analysis 2017).

Frenzy of new school building

Entrepreneurs were the next biggest group founding schools. Many saw schools as a business opportunity and founded them as private companies running for profit. Schools have also been set up by local people to serve the needs of a community. Government schools form a small minority of the total. The Humanist Schools, which are private schools run on a charitable basis fit in the Others category.

Since the liberalisation of education, the number of schools has increased greatly, as has the proportion of children in full-time education. Among today’s young people, 17% attend pre-school, 80% go to primary, 44% to secondary school, and 4% go on to University level courses. All schools expect fees or other financial contributions from families. In rural areas, livelihoods are from subsistence farming. The little cash families earn derives from the sale of surplus food or cash crops. So, for many Ugandans, incomes are low and unreliable. Meeting the school fees for all members of a family is a major challenge. Consequently, school drop-out rates are high. 40% of boys and 49% of girls leave primary school before taking their Primary Leaving Examination (PLE). Of the children who complete their primary education, a further 38% drop out before O-level exams.

Although many young people now gain an education, among the general working population (aged 13-59) the proportion of educated people remains low. In 2014, only 9.6% of the working population had completed primary school, 8% had an O-level, 3% an A-level and only 2% had a degree-level qualification.

With such low general levels of education, new school leavers with O and A-levels can do very well in the job market. Those that secure a paid job can create a good life themselves and also help to support their family members back in the villages. The Humanist Schools are a small part of the total. However, they provide a unique education based on the values of reason, compassion and tolerance. Together they are transforming the life chances of very many young people every year and helping to lift out of poverty the fortunate communities where they operate.

Category: News

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