Education & Jobs

Starting early

A young child hiding behind his textbookChildren living in Uganda’s towns and cities may go to nursery school from the age of three. Even in rural villages, nurseries are becoming more common.

However, most children start their education aged five/six when they attend primary school. Primary schooling should last for seven years, but poorer pupils often drop out part-way. It's not unusual to find teenagers sitting primary exams, if they have the chance to return later.

Though tuition is free (for up to four children and all orphans), families are sometimes unable to afford other fees or expenses, such as for equipment and books. In rural areas, the quality of education can also be poor, with up to 100 children in a class.

A child drawing on a blackboardThe first national exams are the Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE), which are currently made up of four subjects – English, Maths, science and social studies.

Staying on in education

Ugandans value education and if their families can afford it, children will carry on to secondary school. This consists of two stages – four years of 'senior' and then two years of 'higher'.

The exams taken at the end of each stage are sometimes referred to as ‘O-levels’ and ‘A-levels’, as they used to be called in Britain.

University scholarships

For poor students with good final grades, the government offers around 4,000 scholarships at university or college.

Tuition fees at secondary level were dropped in 2007 to encourage more pupils to stay on in education. However, students have to score well in their PLE to be awarded a free secondary place.

Education is the way up or out

Supporting siblings

Extended families are the norm in Uganda, providing an important support network. But they also bring their obligations. Many young adults work to support younger sisters and brothers through school, particularly if parents have died. With a decent wage, they might also be expected to pay for the schooling of cousins, nephews or nieces.

Agriculture still employs around two-fifths of Uganda’s workforce. But while many older Ugandans continue to farm or earn money from growing cash crops such as coffee, young Ugandans often aspire to a more modern way of living.

The young, particularly young men, frequently travel to the towns and cities to seek work. However, many are disappointed when they get there. Youth unemployment is extremely high in Uganda, running at around 80%.

Even when work is found, it is often poorly-paid casual labour. See the kind of work Ugandans take on to earn a living in Economy & Industry.

For some, particularly the better-educated, there is always the option of seeking work abroad. Many Ugandans (over 750,000 according to the World Bank) travel to other countries to find jobs and send money home to their families.