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History of Education in Uganda

Informal education

Before 1886 informal education was the only form of education in Uganda. Till now it is still  the most popular in the country. The knowledge majority of the youth use to make a living  or make life’s important decisions, they have learned informally. 

The impact of informal education in Uganda cannot be underscored and here are a number  of ways it has put a major stamp on the nation.

  • Traditional birth attendants (TBA). Before universal access to good health systems,  most women gave birth to their babies in the hands of TBAs. But TBAs did not get  their training in a formal education system. The older women would train young  ones, aspiring to do the work, both on job and casual lectures. They would train  them in prenatal, childbirth, maternal, postnatal and even neonatal care. The methods  used were pretty crude but that was the only way of survival.
  • Circumcision. Circumcision is viewed as a task that ought to be done by someone  who has had formal training and/or expertise to do. Well in Uganda the people that  do this task to boys, young men and until recently to girls also had their training  informally. They would do it for both religious and cultural practices. Many still opt to  take their babies to these crude methods vis a vie a regulated health facility. 


  • Child care. The information on how to care for babies to children in all stages has  been passed on from generation to generation and only a handful elite attend child  care classes.
  •  Medicare. Treatment of a number of ailments has been passed on informally from  generation to generation. Till today majority of people have a liking to this medicare.  To the biggest percentage of the population, babies are treated with a preventative  concoction of herbs as early as a week old. These regimes have been passed from  older generation to younger generations informally. 
  • Driving. When one gets access to a car, they will informally get training on how to  operate it and do minor repairs. They will only go to the driving school for a license. 
  • Business. Many enterprises have been built on informal knowledge and training. A  mentor already doing the business will coach you on how to do it and that’s how you  learn and start. Infact many successful business owners swear that the academic  guidelines and strategies are not practical or beneficial in the real world. 

Just to mention but a few of these notable stamps of informal trainings in Uganda

Formal education

The Church Mission Society of London introduced formal education in Uganda in 1886. They  formulated the syllabus, curriculums, graded examinations, set standards of  accomplishment for each grade, built and administered the schools, and trained the  teachers who staffed them. Today the ministry of education and sports does the oversight of  all education activities in Uganda including the general academic systems (nursery, primary,  secondary and university) and vocational trainings. All formal education is done in English  except the language subjects. 

Nursery isn’t a compulsory education level but to most people it has become very  important. The learners in nursery level are taught the English alphabet, numeric, social  skills, religion, sanitation, reading, writing etc. Many schools have adopted the phonics  syllabus for their learners. 

Nursery is 3 years and thereafter the pupil will be enrolled in primary school when they are  about 6years of age for 7 years. At the end of primary level they are awarded with a primary  leaving education certificate graded in English, mathematics, science and social studies.  They are then enrolled into secondary school sub-divided into ordinary and advanced level 

with each earning a national certificate on completion. There after some will enroll into  university or various training institutes for certificates, diplomas and degrees.  

Formal education especially the higher levels is mostly popular in urban centres and  strongly grounded in the metropolitan districts. This makes it an inequitable service in  Uganda with some districts having only a handful of graduates annually. This is even  worsened by the graduates’ retention in the metropolitan. The inequity of education in  Uganda is caused by; corruption in the government, poverty, regional urbanization and a  history of civil unrest in some areas.

Non formal education.

A lot of skilled laborers have attained their education non formally. Under the instruction of  an experienced persons and hands on training they will be given a syllabus and/or organised  form of education that is not regulated by the government. These trainings can be initiatives  

of the government, non-government organisations, individuals, communities or institutes  Some of the programs that have been boosted by non formal education in Uganda include  but are not limited to; improved agricultural practices, financial stewardship by community  saving groups, health education talks in medical facilities, computer trainings in cottage  settings, climate change advocacy etc. Non formal education has been boosted by the  political stability and urbanization of the country.

Perceptions and myths of education in Uganda.

General academic system Vs vocational studies

There are a number of subjective opinions about education from the different communities.  Overtime these perceptions have evolved due to the growing modernization and infusion of  the western culture. Majority of the people now believe that education is key to anyone’s  life and that the earlier the better.  

Over time these perceptions have evolved due to the growing modernization and infusion of  the western culture. A bigger population now believes education is key to anyone’s future  and that the earlier it is incorporated in someone’s life, the better. We now see senior  citizens taking on elementary classes and even sitting national examinations. In the past 2  decades formal education of the 7 6 3 system in has grown pretty rapidly. However from  mid the last decade vocational studies have been seen to set a growing precedence.

Before  that these vocational studies, leading to handiwork jobs or enterprises, were shunned and  those that opted to undertake them did it informally and non-formally. But now vocational  studies have been formalized with regulated curriculums and learning centers. Now we have  many post school youths making a living as professional carpenters, hairdressers, musicians,  fabricators, chefs etc. Likewise many vocation training institutes have sprouted up to  support this growing demand.

Even with the proven good outcomes of vocational studies in one’s life, most Ugandans still  prefer the traditional 7 6 3 system where one will have a university degree after and  henceforth hope for a white-collar job. There is generally higher praise and recognition for  someone with the traditional university degree than vocational skills. They will unhappily  enroll for vocational training under 2 main circumstances; 

  1. If the caretaker does not have enough funds for the next education phase e.g high  school, university etc.
  2. If the child or dependant doesn’t get the required grades for the next education  phase

The culture of identifying and grooming a child’s talent/hobby into a life skill and/or even  enterprise has not yet gained its deserved popularity, that is why the ssubi fusion troupe  developed the interest to raise youth leaders with not only the prestigious professional  degrees but also extra life skills that could later become a foundation of financial  independence. These skills include; 

  • Performing arts; Music, dance, poetry, drama, playing instruments etc
  •  Construction and bricklaying
  •  Candle production
  • Carpentry and metal fabrication
  • Catering and Baking 
  • Tailoring
  •  Book making

Notable courses/studies.

In the 7 6 3 formal education system, there are courses considered more prestigious than  others. This belief is rooted past generations and informally passed on to the next  generation. While 2 persons could hold the same university degree, their titles will affect  the person’s recognition greatly.

Generally, science education is more notable than social/ arts courses. A failure in the science subjects is more excusable than that in arts. Those who  do science studies are considered of higher IQ than their counterparts. It is a common myth  that students who do science subjects have a guaranteed good future, something that is  definitely not entirely true. It may not even be true that science excellence gives you better  employability. 

In the same category of either science or social studies, some again hold more recognition  than others. This ranking of courses also cuts across the vocational studies for example until  recently about 4 years ago, cosmetology has not been as popular as other courses like  tailoring or even hair dressing.

In the same category of either science or social studies, some again hold more recognition  than others. This ranking of courses also cuts across the vocational studies for example until  recently about 4 years ago, cosmetology has not been as popular as other courses like  tailoring or even hair dressing.

Perception of performing arts in schools.

Performing arts are a very popular activity in lower levels of education i.e nursery and  primary. They include music, dance, drama and poetry. The music is traditional, classical,  original composition as well as mimes ets. They are, infact, a factor many parents consider  in choosing their children’s schools. But as the education levels increase so does the  declination of performing arts to be done by their children. This popularity generally almost  vanishes in the mid of ordinary level when parents now expect their children to solely  concentrate on their class studies. It is believed that the performing acts activities distract  them from their studies.  

Targets of education

Quite a number of guardians and also students aim to attain a university degree but the  majority have a different perspective. They believe that once they have done the ordinary  level they may as well enter the working world and be able to earn a living. Many opt to  drop out and engage in a number of activities like shop attending, street vending bodaboda  transportation etc. a common saying among rural parents is that if they reached financial  independence without education then their children may as well stop at ordinary level and  start money making hustles. Having completed the ordinary level is so prestigious in certain  communities that it is a factor to consider while determining the bride price of a young  woman. It is believed that at the attainment of this education milestone, one should be able  to make better judgement in most occasions because you will hear exclamations like “even  you who sat senior four you couldn’t do differently”

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