Humanist Schools give young people a lifeline to a better future

The 2019 Uganda Certificate in Education (O-Level) results for the Humanist Schools, published recently, showed a further improvement on the previous year. Improving educational standards at Isaac Newton and Mustard Seed Schools see them rising up the school league tables. The two schools are giving more and more young people from poor backgrounds the life changing opportunity that a good education based on positive values can bring.

  1. Each school entered just over 100 students for the exam in 2019. 56.2% of the students of Isaac Newton gained either an aggregate grade 1 or 2 (just over double the national figure). 34.6% of Mustard Seed students gained this level, compared with 26% nationally.
  2. The only failures in the two schools were a handful of students who could not, due to family difficulties, complete their final year of schooling. Nationally 12.8% of students fail outright.
  3. It is particularly pleasing that both schools bring up more of the weaker students to at least a Grade 3. Where nationally just below half of the cohort (43%) gain the lowest level pass at grade 4. At Mustard Seed only 2% gained the lowest grade pass and over 60% gained a creditable grade 3, compared with 23 % nationally. At Isaac Newton just 16.2% gained the lowest pass grade.
  4. For both schools there was a substantial improvement in the overall profile of grades since 2018. (See table of results below)

Moses Kamya, the Director of Mustard Seed School, points out that many of their students have performed well despite difficult personal circumstances.

“One of our girls who has done particularly well is Viola Mbeiza. Her father died, so Viola lived with her Mum. After doing well at primary school, she stayed at home for a year because she had no money for secondary school fees. I heard her story and offered her a UHST scholarship to study at Mustard Seed. Viola loves the school and thrived with us but then disaster struck in her second year. She sustained serious back injuries after falling into a pit at home. She needed ongoing medical attention and missed a lot of school. However, Viola always made up her schoolwork, and her determination was rewarded when she passed O level with the highest division 1. A local politician has managed to secure sponsorship to enable Viola to move on to a course in nursing and midwifery. 

Simon Baidu has also completed his secondary schooling with us. He was also raised by a single mum. They lived in a simple house in Busota trading centre. She earns a meagre income selling chapatis at our school. Simon was a day student. He would occasionally help his mum to roll a single egg omelette in a chapati to make Rolex, not a watch but a popular local street food. Simon’s primary schooling was poor, so he joined the school in S1 with only a third grade in his primary leaving certificate. We would not normally accept someone with such a low grade, but Simon had something about him that suggested promise. We were delighted when he gained a Grade 1 in his O-level examinations and, even more so, when he secured a scholarship to study for his A-levels at a good school in Jinja. His mum is so happy at his achievement. His success, when he gets a job, could help to lift the whole family out of poverty.”


Grade (%)
Uganda Mustard Seed Secondary Isaac Newton High
2018 2019 2018 2019 2018 2019
1 8.4 8.4 8.0 5.0 16.4 20.0
2 16.0 17.6 21.4 29.6 30.2 36.2
3 21.3 23.2 29.3 60.4 30.1 26.6
4 41.5 43.0 41.3 2.0 23.3 16.2
Fail 12.8 7.8 0.0 3.0 0.0 1.0
Roughly 330,000 students take the exams in Uganda.
Mustard Seed cohort increased from 75 in 2018 to 101 in 2019, and Isaac Newton’s increased from 73 to 105.