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Uganda is a country with a troubled recent past which is now striving to recover and to rebuild its economy and improve life for its citizens. It has some of the worst poverty in the world and the population has been badly affected by HIV Aids as well as other endemic diseases such as malaria. Life expectancy is low (59.8 years), infant mortality is high (56.1 deaths per 1000 live births), healthcare rudimentary. Only 65% have access to safe drinking water but this falls to 2% in some rural areas. 75% of the population do not have access to proper sanitation facilities. The national adult literacy rate is 70.2% and the average family has 6 children. (Details sourced from various government reports 2018). Yet this is an exceptionally fertile country with valuable mineral reserves which bodes well for the future. Uganda is seeking to rebuild its reputation as an attractive tourist destination with fabulous wildlife parks, beautiful scenery and friendly people. There is a road network to facilitate access to the parks for those who wish to go on safari, and there are some very comfortable lodges and hotels where tourists can stay and will be made very welcome.

Education and the Pandemic

The COVID pandemic led to the Ugandan Government taking early and robust action. The country went into lockdown in March 2020 and all educational establishments were closed for 82 weeks, after which there was a progressive opening allowed starting in January 2022, still subject to stringent conditions. Home schooling was impractical for many parts of the country without power, radio or TV. The whole country was locked down, so subsistence farmers (who constitute the majority of the parents in the areas where SEDCU is active) were unable to get their produce to market and were effectively unable to earn a living. School teachers were laid off without pay in many cases. When the lockdown was over, many private schools were unable to reopen due to the financial impacts, and also many pupils dropped out of education. Although schools and colleges were mostly allowed to re-open in January 2022, it has taken a year for things to return to something like normal, and even then the loss of nearly two years of education will have had a long-lasting impact on a generation of young people.


While there is state funded primary education available to all, the money available to schools in the state sector is tight and class sizes are huge by our standards: in one school we visited the entry level class for 7 year olds had 207 children. The teachers are also struggling and battling against limited resources, lack of teaching materials and nowhere to display notices etc, and yet they remain incredibly dedicated to their cause.

As a consequence, enlightened parents want to send their children to the growing number of privately funded primary schools which, although in rudimentary buildings with very basic facilities, do have smaller class sizes and give children the start to life they deserve. Other parents might wish to do this but they are unable to pay the fees, and there are also orphans and children of displaced families who are not able to access this kind of education.

There is very limited provision for children with disabilities to gain an education.  Those few schools which have the appropriate staff and facilities need additional financial input from parents or charities to fulfill this role.


The Education system in Uganda reflects the British system left in place when Uganda gained independence. Universal Primary Education was only introduced in 1997 with the aim of improving enrollment and attainment in primary schools.  We understand from the media that the sudden influx of pupils has created challenges for schools and teachers which will take time to resolve. In 2004 Universal Secondary Education was introduced but only about 10% of Primary pupils progress to secondary.

Classes start at a very early age in private schools – Pre-primary can start at 2 - 3 years of age and consist of 3 or 4 year groups.  There are 7 Primary classes and in the 7th year, Primary Leaving Exams (PLE) are set, the results of which determine a student’s secondary education options.  There are 4 years at Secondary level, studying 8 compulsory subjects, leading to O level exams, known as Ugandan Certificate of Education, followed by a further 2 years studying for A-levels (Ugandan Advanced Certificate of Education).  All final exams, at all levels, are set and marked centrally by the Ugandan National Examinations Board which also sets the curriculum, standards and examinations.  If successful, students can apply to University or Teacher Training College.  There are a number of universities both public and private. Those who do not pass the required PLE standard can either apply to Vocational Colleges, Technical Colleges or seek work. Whilst the majority of children take the PLE at age 13/14 it is not unusual to find much older children sitting the exam. Many children start Primary School when they are older or, through family circumstances, have been forced to take a year out.

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