The Republic of Uganda is a landlocked country located in eastern Africa. Arab traders arriving from the East African coast in the early 19th century encountered ancient, well-organized tribal kingdoms in the area now known as Uganda. The Indian Ocean traders were soon followed by British explorers and missionaries. The vast Kingdom of Buganda (Kenya and Uganda) became a British protectorate in 1894.
Uganda gained independence in 1961-62, though remaining a member of the British Commonwealth. Some Ugandans favored a centralized state while others promoted a loose federation of tribally-based local kingdoms. In 1966, Prime Minister Milton Obote proclaimed Uganda a republic. In 1971, his government was ousted in a military coup led by Idi Amin Dada. Amin's 8 year rule produced economic decline, social disintegration, and human rights violations which ultimately ended in a revolt in 1978-79 that resulted in his permanent exile. Obote again took control after elections in 1980, but political instability continued. Parliamentary elections were held in 2001, and a national referendum resulted in the adoption of a multiparty system of representative government.
Uganda has a predominantly rural population of some 31 million, nearly 99% of African origin. Amin expelled 50,000 Asians, who had been engaged in trade, industry, and professions. Asians have slowly returned and now number around 30,000. English is the official language, though Luganda, Swahili, Bantu and other native languages are widely spoken. Attendance in primary education is relatively high (89%) and literacy is 66.8%, but life expectancy is just over 45 years.
Ugandans have long demonstrated a remarkable appreciation and desire for education. Rural farmers as well as urban elites seek education, and, after independence, many villages built schools, hired teachers, and appealed for government assistance to operate their own local schools, but their aspirations are not yet fully realized. Infrastructure, staffing, and quality control have been difficult to maintain and improve. Development plans for higher education still rely largely on international and private donors.
The education system in Uganda is based on the British system and is overseen by the Ministry of Education and Sports. During the colonial period, mission schools were established in the 1890s, and, in 1924, the colonial government opened the first secondary school to Africans. By the 1950s, religious and private organizations opened many more schools. Most subjects were taught according to the British syllabus until 1974, and British examinations measured a student's progress through primary and secondary school.
Primary and Secondary Education
Primary school begins at age 6 and lasts for 7 years. Students are awarded the Primary School Leaving Certificate upon completion. 40% of students continue their education following primary school.
There are two, post-primary options: technical secondary school or lower secondary school. Technical secondary schools are 3 years and offer vocational/technical programs. Upon completion, students are awarded the Uganda Junior Technical Certificate. Technical school graduates have the option of continuing in a technical institute. Lower secondary is 4 years long and students are awarded the Uganda Certificate of Education.
Following lower secondary school, students can continue in a 2-year upper secondary (Forms V and VI) program. Upon completion of upper secondary, students sit for the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education.
Admission to all post-secondary studies requires 6 passes on the Uganda Certificate of Education and 2 passes on the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education.
First, Second, and Third Cycles
Bachelor’s degree programs are 3 to 5 years long, depending on the program of study. Master’s degree programs 18 months to 3 years, depending on the program of study. A Doctor’s Degree is a 2- to 3-year program requiring a master’s degree for admission.
Established in 1922, Makerere University in Kampala was the first college in East Africa. Its primary aim was to train citizens for government employment, but by the 1980s it had expanded to include colleges of liberal arts and medicine, serving more than 5,000 students from Uganda and other African countries. In the 1980s, the College of Commerce separated from Makerere to become the National College of Business Studies, and the National Teachers' College became a separate Institute of Teachers' Education. Today, Makerere University hosts 95% of the country's total university enrollment
In 1989, a second national university campus opened in Mbarara, and its curriculum was designed to serve Uganda's rural development needs. The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) financed the opening of the Islamic University at Mbale in southern Uganda in 1988. This campus provides Islamic educational services primarily to English-speaking students from African nations.
The primary issue in Ugandan education is growth. The demand is far greater than the supply, and the number of private education facilities is growing rapidly. In 2004, there were more than 100,000 students pursuing higher education and more than 2000 programs to choose from. The number of institutions has increased from one public university in 1987 to some 28 universities today, 4 of them public. The demand for primary education tripled with the introduction in 1997 of free primary education for 4 children in every family. Secondary education has seen a growth of 20% in the number of government-aided schools, and a 15% increase in the number of private secondary schools. Higher education absorbs only about 25% of qualified secondary graduates, but university enrollment has nearly doubled in a decade.