The Northern and West Nile regions of Uganda are still recovering from 20 years of conflict involving the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The conflict resulted in the displacement of nearly two million people, the breakdown of rule of law, massive destruction of infrastructure, economic deprivation and widespread human rights abuses, including the use of child soldiers. Since the LRA was forced out of Uganda in 2006, there has been positive progress towards peace and stability, but recovering from the legacy of conflict has many challenges. Many communities depended on aid during the conflict and now face high levels of poverty, low levels of literacy, and have few vocational skills or experience of earning their own living. Currently 49% of people in this region live in poverty – more than double the national average.
In the Eastern region of Uganda, the number of people living in poverty has increased by over 25% in the past few years. This area is home to small-scale subsistence farmers who have not benefited from the boom in cash crops seen in other areas of the country. Alongside this growing poverty, there has been an increase in the prevalence of child labour. There are currently over two million child labourers. Poverty has also led to a growing number of children being forced onto the streets, where they are at particular risk of abuse and exploitation.
The levels of poverty and history of conflict in the Northern and Eastern regions have had a great impact on the accessibility and quality of education. These regions of Uganda are continuously ranked lowest in terms of school performance and literacy, and only 30% of children who enter primary school go on to complete their primary school education.
The conflict in the West Nile region and Northern Uganda destroyed and shut down many schools and the LRA’s use of child soldiers disrupted children’s lives. The result is that many people in this region never received an education. This makes it difficult for parents to help their children learn or even to find teachers from within the region. The fact that most schools are unable to offer local language education only makes matters worse.
Girls and women have fared worse than boys and men. The conflict kept women at home, away from school, and consequently there are very few female teachers (only 12% of the teaching population are women) or positive female role models. With so few female role models and mentors, girls are not encouraged to continue school and only 34% of those girls who enrol for primary school take primary leaving exams.
In the Eastern region, school performance is the worst in the country. Only 2% of grade three students can comprehend a grade two story. Lack of funding means that there are very few books or learning materials available to schools and students to help children learn to read. Poverty, as well as insecurity, in the North East, has driven many children onto the streets rather than into school.
AET has been working with universities in Uganda to support long distance learning for teachers and government officials since 1998. In 2002, AET began to investigate and research issues affecting education in the conflict-affected Northern region of Uganda in anticipation of expanding our work into this country.
After the LRA was driven out in 2006, AET began to support learning and literacy programmes for internally displaced people. In 2009, AET opened an office in Kampala to coordinate programmes across the entire country. As Northern Uganda and the West Nile move towards recovery, AET continues to support teacher training and rebuild education systems, with a focus on girls’ education. Rising poverty and poor education provision in the East of Uganda has led us to expand our work to support excluded remote rural populations and street children.
Mother Tongue Education
In partnership with the Ugandan NGO, Literacy and Adult Basic Education (LABE), this project enhances teachers’ skills in the use of mother tongue in early literacy and numeracy, and the consequent transition to English, to improve primary school retention in Northern Uganda. Reaching over 10,000 students and 800 adults, the project supports national teacher training curriculum around local language teaching.
Protection and Education of Street Children
In partnership with the Ugandan NGO, Child Restoration Outreach, this project works with 13,000 street and non-street children in the Eastern region to improve attitudes towards, and support for, street children, and provide them with quality education.
Improving Learning and Retention in Northern Uganda
This project aims to improve the accessibility, quality and relevance of secondary education in eight schools in Northern Uganda, especially for girls. The project supports secondary School Mothers to act as mentors and advocates for 1,500 female students. The project also works to enhance the quality of the teaching and learning environments, and integrate relevant business and life skills to support the transition to employment or further study.
Primary School Mothers
School Mothers are locally nominated women who act as role models for girls in areas where there are few female teachers, as well as acting as advocates for girls’ education with parents, the community, teachers and local authorities. Currently, 42 School Mothers provide 17,000 girls with the support necessary to encourage them to stay in school and transition successfully to secondary education.
Schools in Uganda have few learning resources, making it very difficult to provide opportunities for study and promote learning and literacy. This project supports the establishment of 100 school libraries with trained librarians for 80,000 children in disadvantaged primary schools.
Teacher Change Makers
This project focuses on improving educational outcomes in schools in Eastern Uganda, by motivating teachers in 17 schools to develop and implement innovative ideas and solutions to improve student learning in remote communities.