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Uganda -- Education

Western education began in Uganda in the 1890's with Christian mission schools. In 1924, the government opened its first secondary school; however, by 1950, it ran only three of the 53 secondary schools. After independence, communities came together to build and operate their own local schools with government assistance. Up to 1974, the curriculum followed the British syllabus for most subjects. The government, in 1975, proposed a new curriculum. At first, local publishing companies were able to produce textbooks and materials for the new curriculum, but continued violence and instability of the late 1970's and early 1980's destroyed local publishing and exam scores dropped significantly. [1]

The education system was able to operate during the political turmoil of the 70's and 80's by using local and regional-based administrations supported by a national school inspectorate and standardized, nation-wide examinations. The education system suffered from destruction of buildings and materials and also because many teachers fled the country. Improvements in the late 1980s has led to an overall literacy rate of 61.8% (1995 estimate). [2] The Musevini government is trying to improve the educational system by repairing and improving existing schools, building new schools, improving the quality of teacher education, and refocusing the curriculum away from an emphasis on academic subjects towards vocational and technical training.

Formal education in Uganda starts with seven primary school grades. However, recently there has been a movement to increase primary education to eight or nine years. This has been part of an overall focus on improving, strengthening, and expanding primary education. Resources from secondary and post-secondary education have been shifted to primary education. There has also been a drive for gender equality in primary education. Today, only 29% of primary school children are girls. [3] In 1989, there were 2,532,000 children enrolled in primary schools, up from 727,000 in 1970 and 2,117,000 in 1985.[4]

Secondary education has also made improvements since the end of the Amin era. The secondary level still follows the British "O" and "A" level system with nation-wide standardized testing. Gender ratios at the secondary level are lower for girls than in primary schools. The majority of teachers are not trained and in reality only teach part time; many of them must do other work to earn a living. Because secondary schools are in large part sustained by parental and community assistance, the quality of education varies greatly. In 1989, there were 265,000 students enrolled in secondary schools, up from 37,000 in 1970 and 160,000 in 1985. [5]

Makerere University, founded in 1922, accounts for 95% of all post-secondary education in Uganda, even though several teacher training and vocational colleges have opened recently. Enrollment at Makerere in 1989 was at 6,300. Enrollment continues to grow, but the drop-out rate is high. Today, Makerere offers degrees in forestry, arts, social sciences, education, law, and medicine. In addition to Makerere and three training and vocational colleges, there are three private universities: Mbale Muslim University, the Catholic Martyrs' Memorial University at Nkozi, and the Protestant Christian University of East Africa at Ndejje.

1. Byrnes, Rita M. (ed.) 1992. Uganda A Country Study , Library of Congress: Washington D.C, pg 68.

2. Encyclopedia of the Third World , 1992, vol 4 pg 300.

3. The Economist Intelligence Unit. 1998-1999. Country Profile, Uganda . London: The Unit, pg20

4 Byrnes, Rita M. (ed.) 1992. Uganda A Country Study , Library of Congress: Washington D.C, pg. 68

5. Byrnes, Rita M. (ed.) 1992. Uganda A Country Study , Library of Congress: Washington D.C, pg. 68

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