Education in Uganda


  1. Key Country Statistics
  2. General information and key indicators relevant to education
  3. Major Government and International Actors within the Educational System
  4. NGO Projects Supporting the Educational System
  5. International Grants Supporting Educational Projects

Accurate as of March 2013; unless indicated otherwise, the websites are all in English. Acknowledgement: Benjamin Barton.


Key Country Statistics

Key statistics for Uganda relevant to education are as follows:

  • Population: 33.6 million
  • Age structure: 0-14 years = 49.1% of total population; 15-24 years = 21.2% of total population
  • Median age = 15 years (for men and women)
  • Urbanisation: 13%
  • Education expenditure: 3.2% of GDP (rank 126 in the world)
  • Literacy (understood as age 15 and over can read): 66.8% (breakdown: male 76.8% and female 57.7%)
  • School life expectancy: Total = 11 years (primary to tertiary education)
  • GDP growth forecast: 4.2% (2012)
  • Official national language: English

Sources: country census and CIA World Factbook. 

Structure of Educational System

The educational system in Uganda is structured around 7 years of primary education, 6 years of secondary education (divided into 4 years of lower secondary and 2 years of upper secondary school) and 3-5 years of post-secondary education. The system has been in place since the 1960s. The school system is based around a predominance of public schools (government-run) and private schools. As in most such educational systems, there are obvious discrepancies in quality between the public and private schools, especially with regards to the urban/rural divide.

In 2007, Uganda became the first Sub-Saharan African country to introduce universal secondary education, which came 10 years after it introduced universal primary education. This has resulted in more pupils from primary school attending secondary school via government subsidies and it is widely recognised that Uganda has made very significant progress in providing access to schooling for primary and lower secondary aged children. Some private schools have also contributed to this pioneering system. Furthermore, this has resulted in the government building more schools and employing an increasing number of teaching staff. Furthermore, girls from poorer backgrounds have also seen their attendance in public schools increase considerably as a result.

The only flaw with the government’s investment in education seems to be that quantitative increases have not been met by qualitative increases. A number of obstacles are hampering the government’s attempts in terms of educational outputs: inadequate teaching space and material; a shortage of teachers; and inadequate disbursement of government funds.

Source: the Guardian.

Major Government and International Actors within the Educational System

These are the Ministry of Education & Sports, the National Curriculum Development Centre, the Uganda National Examinations Board, the National Council for Higher Education, the Uganda National Commission for UNESCO and UNICEF Uganda.

NGO Projects Supporting the Educational System

Promoting Equality in African Schools (PEAS): this is a UK-based charity, active since 2005. PEAS develops and launches secondary schools that contribute to long-term societal change, poverty reduction and the empowerment of young people in Uganda and Zambia. The organisation works via a combination of private-public partnerships with the Ugandan government in order to provide financially sustainable schools in the short-term. The organisation aims to create 100,000 sustainably financed secondary school places by 2017 and make PEAS school the best free/low fee secondary school in Uganda.

Education Uganda: this is a British registered charity, based in Hampshire, that has been active since 2006. Its aim is to improve primary education in Uganda by the use of individual blackboards, particularly in the Kasese District of Western Uganda (collected by group of Hampshire-based teachers) in order to provide interactive teaching through the use of individual blackboards for all 420 primary schools in the Kasese District (~200,000 pupils).

Soft Power Education: this is British registered charity & Uganda NGO, active since 1999. Its aim is to improve the quality of life through education, focusing on five related areas (refurbishment of primary schools, education centres, community development programmes, partnerships, special needs project). This organisation supports the Ugandan government in working towards its Millennium Development Goals for primary education; it works with the schools and has created a complementary learning environment based at the Amagezi Educational Centre; it has worked to enable opportunities for adult learning; in partnership with the Ugandan Wildlife Authority, it is bringing conservation to the classrooms in areas under specific environmental threats and aims to increase awareness and acceptance of Special Needs Children in the Jinja District. The organizations’ website states that: “the Ugandan government is incredibly supportive of the work that is being carried out by NGOs on healthcare, education and development infrastructure issues”.

Kitale School Uganda: this British registered charity has been active since 2006. Mike Willetts has travelled back and forth to Uganda and invested money to help build a school in the community of Kitale B, Mukono District, to help children learn language skills they wouldn’t normally have access to. On the website, he indicates that: “education is highly coveted by all ages in Uganda.” The entire project was self-financed and raised by Mr Willetts. The school has expanded ever since, but volunteers are nonetheless required.

ARK Uganda: this UK-based NGO works with PEAS and in close collaboration with the Ugandan Ministry of Education and Sports. Its approach centres on public-private partnerships using philanthropic investment to help build and operate schools whilst the government pays pupils’ tuition fees. The focus is on building schools in rural areas and thereafter to ensure the financial sustainability of the schools within two years. Two schools have been opened in March 2012 and will help open a further 8 by the end of 2014. Teachers will be trained to run intensive courses in order to improve literacy rates.

Helping Uganda Schools (HUGS): this UK-based charity was established in 1995. It initially aimed at helping pay for the education of 15 children who lived in a very rural area of Uganda; the project then turned into the construction of two secondary schools, successfully completed in 2001 and 2010 respectively. In 2009, the organisation funded the opening of a school for children with learning disabilities.

S.A.L.V.E. International: this UK-based charity, established in 2008, has set up a sponsorship programme for street children in the Jinja District; it also works with local schools to share skills and benefit children within the local community.

AWARE Uganda: this Uganda-based NGO (Action for Women and Awakening in Rural Environment) was established in 1989. It is run by local women in the Karamoja region focusing on a wide range of projects including education via the basic teaching of literacy and numeracy skills.

Kathleen Education Centre: this US-based organisation brings financial and technical assistance to the education programmes of the Kathleen Computer and Craft Training Centres. The organisation has a Bakery building and a main building, where bakery, sewing, and arts and crafts techniques are taught to local village women. The organisation is seeking to build more classrooms to teach carpentry, auto-mechanics, and construction techniques.

Volunteers Overcoming Poverty Uganda: this UK-based charity, established in 2010, is working on a UNICEF-supported project, namely to improve the quality of primary education and early childhood development, leading to improved learning achievements, completion and retention.

International Grants Supporting Educational Projects

Elton John AIDS Foundation Uganda Grant Programme: offers grants for projects in Uganda to support children infected/affected by HIV/AIDS. Nonprofits or schools may apply.

US Embassy, Kampala, Community Grants to Combat HIV/AIDS: offers grants specifically to support orphans or vulnerable children. Non-profits or schools may apply.

USAID Unsolicited Grants: provides funding for exceptional grant proposals in any development area and non-profits may apply after registering with USAID.

The EU Delegation to Uganda has in the past run/funded a number of education-based projects, either with other partner countries or specific organizations. Information on possible calls for tender on education-based projects can be found here.

Japanese Embassy, Kampala, Grant Assistance for Grass-roots Human Security Projects aims to provide financial assistance to non-profit, development-oriented organizations so as to implement community development projects, which directly benefit people at the grassroots level of primary/secondary education and vocational training remain priority areas.