Humanist High Schools break the Grade Barrier

Senior 4 students at the Humanist High Schools in Uganda have performed well in their 2020 O-level exams. 

The Uganda Certificate in Education, widely referred to as Ordinary-level exams, are taken at age 16. To gain an overall grade, students must pass in all of 7 core subjects. The final total across the 7 provides an aggregate grade, which forms the basis of league tables, which rank schools by district and nationally. Just over 6% of students in Uganda achieve an aggregate grade 1 over 7 subjects.

In 2020, the final year of study was very much affected by school closures due to Covid. To help students, the UNEB exam board assessed them on the basis of a restricted syllabus, which the schools were informed of some months before the final exam. 

22% of Isaac Newton students gained Grade 1. This placed the school 9 out of 36 schools in its district. If they had included grade 2, then the school would have been higher, as 40% of its students gained either 1 or 2.

Another pleasing feature is that the school produced the 3rd highest performing individual student in the District, and 2 were in the top 20 students. The school is clearly operating at the highest level and its teachers extend even the brightest students.

At Mustard Seed School in Busota, 10% of students gained Grade 1, well above the national average. The school ranked 6th out of 30 schools in its District. A feature of Uganda, in common with most other countries, is that the highest school performance is in richer neighbourhoods of the country. This means that results are higher around Kampala, the capital, where most higher income families live, and declines towards the more remote rural areas, where more people depend upon subsistence agriculture.

The results were a source of joy among students and families. The picture shows Sylvia Nakaibale, from Mustard Seed School, with her family. She holds a copy of the national newspaper containing the UCE results. Sylvia is the only child in secondary school in her family. All her older brothers dropped out of school due to lack of money to pay fees. Her father is a herbalist, but earns little money. He is proud of his daughter’s achievement, which has only been possible because she gained a scholarship that was generously funded by a UHST supporter. His hope now is that Sylvia will be able to get support to study for UACE (Advanced level) and possibly later to enrol in university to become the shining light in their family.

There can be little doubt that UHST scholarships provide a vital life line to a better future for bright young people from poorer homes. As the network of Humanist Schools expands we shall need to find more people who are willing to support children through their education.