Challenges facing education system in Uganda

Writen by Ruth Lakica


Education is a fundamental rights for all humans around the globe. Regardless of one’s economic or social status,  every human being should be entitled to Education. Despite the fact that this might seem obvious, it is not the reality for many Ugandans. Nevertheless, the government has and is still making significant efforts to cub illiteracy.  For instance, the government split the education system into pre-primary, primary, secondary and post secondary or tertiary education.

Uganda has made progress in implementing universal primary education, yet many students do not achieve minimum levels of literacy and numeracy. Low learning levels contribute to low completion rates and many students fail to transition between grades and dropout rates are high.

Alice Namweru, age 32, is a teacher trainee at Miyana Primary School & Early Childhood Development Center. Photo by: GPE/Livia Barton

Conflicts and insecurity

Nearly 40 pupils have been killed at a school in western Uganda by rebels linked to the Islamic State group (IS).

Five militants attacked the Lhubiriha secondary school in Mpondwe. Uganda’s information minister said 37 students were confirmed to have been killed, but did not give their ages. Twenty of them were attacked with machetes and 17 of them burned to death, Chris Baryomunsi told the BBC.

The Ugandan army said the rebels had also killed a school guard and three members of the local community.

Survivors said the rebels threw a bomb into the dormitory after the machete attack. It is not clear if this resulted in a fire in the building which was reported earlier.

Six students were also abducted to carry food that the rebels stole from the school’s stores, he added. The militants then returned across the border into the DR Congo.

Lack of enough teachers

The lack of teachers is yet another huge obstacle to education in the rural areas of Uganda. Actually, in rural areas, it can be extremely difficult to attract great teachers, and hiring, in general, most teachers prefers to teach in urban areas. The reason is, rural life is not suitable for everyone. Many services such as healthcare, banks and proper housing can be harder to obtain as well.

Destin at Kyanja high school Mpigi teaching climate education. Photo by: Atwijukirenaomi

Household poverty

Access to and completion of schooling is inequitable, with girls and children from the poorest families at highest risk of school dropout: According to UNICEF in 2020,the secondary level enrollment of the richest 20 per cent of the population (43.1 per cent) is five times that of the poorest 20 per cent (8.2 per cent).  In geographical terms, the highest Secondary Net Enrollment is seen in Kampala (52 per cent) and lowest in Acholi (7 per cent).  Costs associated with education account for 6 out of 10 people leaving school among the people from the poor household.

Among children that do attend school in Uganda, the absence of qualified teachers, textbooks, and low-quality school environment all adversely affect learning outcomes: most students in fifth grade in rural areas in Uganda are not able to master basic mathematics and reading skills.

Physical distance to learning centers

Physical distance is another huge problem children attaining education in mainly rural areas have go through. Schools are located kilometers away from their home stay where kids have to move for long hours to get to their school. Some fail to go to school because it’s far while others tend to drop out.

Impact of Covid-19

The school closures and the loss of household income, particularly in rural areas, restricted access to education for school-aged children. Many students abandoned school permanently due to their parent’s loss of income.  young people needed to find ways to generate an income while schools were closed. This posed different challenges depending on gender or location.

Girls did not reintegrate back into schools, and were exposed to early marriage and pregnancies. Teenage pregnancy and early marriages Ahead of the 2020 Day of the African Child, Save the Children had a discussion with selected children on how COVID-19 was affecting them. This story from Wakiso District sums it up. “A girl in primary five in a neighboring school was impregnated by a man working in a stone quarry. When schools closed, her mother sent her to sell. Many of these girls may never go back to school, because of the economic impact of COVID-19 on their families. In such instances, more girls than boys are likely to be affected as impoverished families usually prioritize educating the boys. The girls are expected to be married off.

Water, sanitation and hygiene

Water and sanitation are essential for life and health, but they are also essential for dignity, empowerment and prosperity. Water and sanitation are human rights, fundamental to every child and adult. But in Uganda, poor sanitation and hygiene, as well as unequal access to safe drinking water, make thousands of children very sick and at risk of death.

Early childhood diarrhoea is not only deadly; it also contributes to Uganda’s high levels of stunting, which in turn affects children’s cognitive development and performance at school. In school, lack of proper sanitation facilities also leads to high absenteeism and dropouts, especially for girls. According to UNICEF “Diarrhoea alone, one of three major childhood killers in Uganda, kills 33 children every day”. In most cases, children get the disease by drinking unsafe water or coming into contact with contaminated hands and most schools in Uganda especially in rural areas does not provide clean water for their students.

A primary classroom in Kampala. Uganda. Photo by: Arne Hoel / World Bank

Teenage pregnancy and child marriages

Child marriage, teenage pregnancy, abuse at schools and school fees keep many teens, especially girls, out of secondary schools.  pregnancy accounts for 8 per cent of girls who left school. Similar challenges remain in the quality of education: only about 50 per cent of the children in Primary 3 were proficient in literacy and numeracy in a 2018 survey conducted by the Government.


In conclusion, Uganda’s government, therefore, has a responsibility of extending better social services in rural areas such as roads, schools, hospitals to facilitate development in those areas and hence improve people’s standards of living as well as education for the poor kids.

As government seeks to alleviate the effects of lockdown brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, emphasis should be placed on ensuring that systems that are supposed to protect girls and women from GBV are not compromised. If this is not done quickly, the country will have to deal with a number of psychosocial problems brought about by the lockdown. Clean water must be readily available for people to improve their hygiene habits, as must soap. And girls must have privacy and dignity when using sanitation facilities.


Patience A in Kampala & James G in London. (2023, June 17). Uganda school Attack.

UNICEF. (2020). Education. UNICEF uganda.

Tuyambe. (2022, September 28). Education challenges faced by Uganda children in rural are as.

The Conversation. (2022, February 15). Uganda closed schools for two years – the impact is deep and uneven. (2020, July). COVID-19 and Girl Child Education in Uganda. What are the Emerging Issues?.

UNICEF. (2022). Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). UNICEF. Uganda.


  1. Thanks for the daily updates about the education system of Uganda

    • This article is very insightful. Thank you for coming up with this. I expect more if this to create awareness in the society

      • Good analysis, Government needs to also empower Ugandans in order to increase their income to be able to afford school fees for their children

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