Uganda’s School System

posted in: About Uganda | 0


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According to article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations, ‘Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory.’

Unfortunately, in a poor country like Uganda, it is definitely not a matter of course that each and every child goes to school. Yet, fact is that with the median age of the population, that currently counts about 46 million people, not even being 16 years, millions of children are of school age. Uganda has both government schools and private schools. Sadly, the private schools, which can in general provide education of a higher quality, are only accessible for the rich and the poor completely depend on government schools. In 1997, the Ugandan government introduced what was intended to be ‘free’ primary school. Unfortunately, although the intention had been that many children could from then on receive free education, today, in reality, due to the enormous number of children, ‘free’ has turned out to be far from entirely free.

Primary School for children starts at the age of 5 and it goes from P1 to P7. The school year starts in February and is divided into three terms at the end of each of which the children receive a school report. At the end of P7, the children must pass a national exam, which is officially called ‘Primary Leaver Exam’. Successfully passing that exam means that children will have access to Secondary School, which goes from S1 to S4 (ordinary level), followed by Senior Secondary School, from SS5 to SS6 (advanced level). When they have reached the end of S4, there will be another national exam to pass, from which the ‘Uganda Certificate of Education’ will be obtained, and from successfully passing the national exam from SS6, the ‘Ugandan Advanced Certificate of Education’ will be obtained. After the successful completion of Secondary School, there is the possibility to go to university or to vocational education.

Sadly, as already mentioned above, even though attending primary school itself is basically free for children, in reality it is not and it causes problems for many families. The sad reality is that there are a lot of additional costs that they still have to pay for themselves, like school uniforms and other materials, such as notebooks, pens, pencils, etc.

Overall, with many families having a lot of children, the parents can often afford for only a few of them to attend even primary school.  Every year, they will have to ask themselves which of their children they can send to school. As for secondary school, less than a quarter (24 percent) of adolescents are enrolled at that level. Period poverty, early marriages, teenage pregnancies, and financial problems keep many teens, especially girls, away from it. So, although possibilities to go to Secondary Schools and from there to University or Vocational Education are there in theory, the sad reality is that for most children their main concern is to achieve that they successfully pass their Primary Leaver Exam. To have passed that exam is most essential for their further school career. Without it they will in most cases not even be admitted to any further education. If the children can after primary school get an opportunity to take part in a (short) vocational course, that greatly increases their chances of finding a job and being able to build themselves a worthy future.

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(updated July 2024))


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